With AT&T and Verizon set to bring their 5G expansion live on January 19, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has selected 50 airports (PDF) that will have buffer zones to prevent flight disruptions (via Reuters and Wall Street Journal). Security regulators selected airports based on location, traffic volume and the likelihood of poor visibility – all factors that can increase cancellations, delays and redirects as both operators launch 5G C-band service.
As pointed out by Wall Street Journal, especially busy airports such as Chicago O’Hare, Orlando International, Los Angeles International and Dallas / Fort Worth International are included in the list, along with airports in places that are often affected by foggy conditions, such as Seattle / Tacoma International and San Francisco International.
The FAA notes that AT&T and Verizon have agreed to turn off 5G transmitters at these specific buffer zones for six months, which will “minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-term landings.”[ads1]; Some airports – including major hubs such as Hartsfield / Jackson International and Denver International – were not included in the list, either because they are not in locations where 5G C-Band deployment will take place, or they may not allow low-term landings.
AT&T and Verizon have wanted to distribute their enhanced 5G service ever since they spent a total of $ 70 billion last year securing parts of the C-band spectrum, which should provide a middle ground in terms of 5G speed and coverage – something that both operators’ 5G service is currently missing. The two currently offer 5G service using super-fast high-band millimeter-wave technology that only covers small areas, as well as the low-band spectrum, which provides a lot of coverage with slow service similar to 4G LTE. T-Mobile already offers mid-band 5G service, but it is not in the C-band series.
Both Verizon and AT&T were originally scheduled to turn on their 5G expansions on December 5, but fears of flight safety delayed the launch twice. The airlines ended up rejecting the FAA’s request to postpone the rollout until 5 January, but later agreed to switch on the service on 19 January, giving the FAA extra time to account for potential flight interruptions.