US officials ask AT&T, Verizon to suspend 5G wireless due to aviation safety concerns

A Verizon contract crew installs 5G telecommunications equipment on a tower in Orem, Utah, USA December 3, 2019. Photo taken December 3, 2019. REUTERS / George Frey / File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 (Reuters) – US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and the head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday asked AT&T (TN) and Verizon Communications (VZ.N) to postpone the planned introduction of the new 5G on January 5. wireless service over aviation security issues.

In a letter Friday seen by Reuters, Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson asked AT&T chief John Stankey and Verizon chief Hans Vestberg for a delay of no more than two weeks as part of a “proposal as a short-term solution to promote the coexistence of 5G C-Band distribution and secure aircraft operations. “

The aviation industry and the FAA have raised concerns about the potential disruption of 5G with sensitive avionics such as radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.

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“We request that your companies continue to pause the introduction of commercial C-Band service for an additional short period of no more than two weeks beyond the currently scheduled rollout date of January 5,” the letter said.

Verizon and AT&T both said they received the letter and reviewed it. Earlier Friday, the two companies accused the aerospace industry of trying to maintain C-Band spectrum distribution “until the wireless industry agrees to cover the cost of upgrading any obsolete altimeters.”

Buttigieg and Dickson said under the framework “commercial C-band service will begin as planned in January with certain exceptions around priority airports.”

The FAA and the aviation industry will identify priority airports “where a buffer zone will allow aviation operations to proceed safely while the FAA completes its interference potential assessments.”

The government will work to identify “reductions for all priority airports” to enable most “large commercial aircraft to operate safely in all conditions.” It will allow deployment around “priority airports on a rolling basis” – with a view to securing activation by 31 March, with the exception of unforeseen problems.

The airlines, which won the spectrum in a $ 80 billion public auction, previously agreed to precautionary measures for six months to limit interference.

On Thursday, the Airlines group for the America Federal Communications Commission (FCC) called for a halt to the distribution of new 5G wireless services around many airports, warning thousands of flights could be disrupted: “The potential damage to the aviation industry alone is staggering.”

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants at 17 airlines, called the Department of Transportation’s proposal “the right move to successfully implement 5G without using the traveling public (and crews on their planes) as guinea pigs” for two systems that must exist side by side without question for security reasons. “

The wireless industry group CTIA said that 5G is safe and the spectrum is used in around 40 other countries.

The head of the House Transport Committee, Peter DeFazio, on Friday supported the call for airlines to warn “we can not afford to experiment with flight safety.”

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Reporting by David Shepardson; Edited by Rosalba O’Brien and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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