Update at 23:20 ET: AT&T and Verizon reversed course on Monday night, announcing that they agreed to the request for a two-week delay in their 5G rollout on C-Band frequencies, according to reports from several news organizations. “With the Secretary [of Transportation Pete] At Buttigieg̵[ads1]7;s request, we have voluntarily accepted an additional two weeks’ delay in our distribution of C-Band 5G services, “an AT&T spokesman told CNN.” We also remain committed to the six-month protection zones we outlined in our letter. We know that aviation safety and 5G can coexist, and we are confident that further cooperation and technical assessment will resolve any issues. “
Verizon also confirmed to news organizations that they agreed to the delay, despite the fact that both operators rejected the request from Buttigieg and the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday. While the two-week delay is nationwide, it is not clear whether AT&T and Verizon will agree to the FAA’s request for longer delays in areas around airports.
The original story published January 3, 2022 at. 14.50 ET follows:
AT&T and Verizon yesterday rejected a request from the Federal Aviation Administration to further postpone a 5G rollout on C-Band frequencies, but said they would adopt one of the world’s most conservative “power limits near airports for six months after the planned deployment. January 5th. This is in addition to other voluntary limits recently announced by airlines, although it has been almost two years since the Federal Communications Commission decided that the use of the spectrum should not interfere with properly designed altimeters.
Specifically, for six months, until July 5, 2022, we will use the same C-Band radio exclusion zones already in use in France, with a slight adaptation to reflect the modest technical differences in how C-Band becomes distributed in the two countries “, the carriers said in yesterday’s letter.” This approach – which is one of the most conservative in the world – will include extensive exclusion zones around the runways at certain airports. The effect will be to further reduce C-Band signal levels by at least 10 times on the runway or during the last mile of the last approach and the first mile after takeoff. “
The exclusion zones in France are 910 × 2100 meters, the letter states. AT&T and Verizon said they would use larger exclusion zones with “an additional 540m on all four sides to accommodate” the higher power levels allowed in the United States.
The airlines noted that “US planes currently fly in and out of France every day with thousands of US passengers and with the full approval of the FAA,” and that “the laws of physics are the same in the US and France. If US airlines are allowed to fly every day in France, and the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States. “
Meanwhile, a group representing major airlines sent a letter to the FCC threatening to sue, claiming that “thousands of flights” could be diverted or canceled every day due to interference from 5G transmissions. But the spectrum is already being used for 5G in almost 40 other countries, and the FAA admitted that there are no “proven reports of harmful interference” to altimeters.
Buttigieg on the FAA’s side
The AT & T / Verizon letter was in response to a Dec. 31 letter from FAA Administrator Steve Dickson and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. Dickson and Buttigieg asked AT&T and Verizon to suspend all commercial C-Band service for another two weeks, until January 19, and wait for the aviation industry to conduct further analysis before distributing 5G on C-Band near airports.
AT&T and Verizon previously agreed on a one-month delay in the deployment, which was originally scheduled for December 5, 2021. In yesterday’s letter, they protested that the new FAA / DOT request “requests that we agree to transfer supervision of our companies’ multi- billion investment in 50 named metropolitan areas that represent the vast majority of the U.S. population to the FAA for an indefinite number of months or years. “
The FCC approved 5G transmissions in the C-band in February 2020, while requiring current restrictions as well as a 220 MHz guard band that will remain unused to protect altimeters. AT&T and Verizon then spent a total of $ 69 billion on buying C-Band spectrum licenses from 3.7-3.98 GHz. The radio altimeters used to determine altitudes depend on the spectrum from 4.2 GHz to 4.4 GHz.
The watch band is actually even bigger in 2022 because operators have said that they do not plan to distribute between 3.8 and 3.98 GHz before 2023.
Airlines plan to sue if the FCC does not act
Airlines for America, a trading group representing the major US airlines, filed an emergency petition on December 30, asking the FCC to stop the deployment of the C-Band near airports. The group said that if the FCC does not act by 12:00 January 3, the group will “be forced to seek legal or other assistance to avoid immediate and unacceptable security risks to members’ operations from interference to radio altimeters.”
The emergency claim claimed that C-Band interference “would cause irreparable damage and jeopardize the operation of critical flight safety systems, which in turn threaten to divert or cancel thousands of flights each day, disrupting millions of passenger reservations, causing significant disruption to flight crews,” further disrupting US and global supply chains, eroding the safety margin that industry and the Federal Aviation Administration have worked so hard to achieve. “
“A4A is playing stupid games because they waited until the FCC closed on December 30 to file. Since the FCC was closed on December 31, A4A says they will appeal today. [Monday], this does not give the FCC time to review or respond to a request, ” wrote Harold Feld, a telecom lawyer who is a senior VP of the consumer lawyer group Public Knowledge.
Six former FCC leaders last month criticized the FAA’s fight against C-Band deployment, saying that “the FAA position threatens to derail the reasoned conclusions the FCC reached after years of technical analysis and study.”