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AT&T, Verizon to delay rolling out 5G services near airports

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AT&T, Verizon to delay rolling out 5G services near airports
AT&T and Verizon have agreed to postpone the scheduled rollout of 5G near airports two weeks. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- AT&T and Verizon on Monday night said they will postpone their rollouts of 5G wireless services near airports, after earlier rebuffing calls by the Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration to do so.

The carriers said in separate statements that they will postpone their rollouts scheduled for Wednesday until Jan. 19, The New York Times and Bloomberg reported.

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A representative for T-Mobile told UPI that its 5G network does not use the C-band spectrum frequencies the FAA is concerned about.

Kim Hart Jonson, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said that at Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg's request, "we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay of our deployment of C-Brand 5G services."

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Rich Young with Verizon said his company also agreed to the two-week delay.

The companies' statements followed Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson on Friday urging AT&T's John Stankey and Hans Vestberg of Verizon in a letter to push back their scheduled launches of 5G services for two weeks because of airline flight disruptions.

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In response, the cellular companies said they will offer to implement similar restrictions on their 5G antennas as those used near French airports for six months.

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"At its core, your proposed framework asks that we agree to transfer oversight of our companies' multi-billion dollar investment in 50 unnamed metropolitan areas representing the lion's share of the U.S. population to the FAA for an undetermined number of months or years," the companies said in the letter obtained by the Wall Street Journal and CNN.

"Agreeing to your proposal would not only be an unprecedented and unwarranted circumvention of the due process and checks and balances carefully crafted in the structure of our democracy but an irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks."

The companies said questions about the operations of 5G towers near airports have been studied and issues resolved.

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"We care deeply about the safety of our customers, employees and families, all of whom fly domestically and internationally for business and pleasure," the companies said. "Our two companies are deeply committed to public safety and national security, and fortunately, the question of whether 5G operation scan safely coexists with aviation has long been settled."

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However, the Air Line Pilots Association, International, has told its member pilots that radar altimeter interference from 5G signals can cause loss of or incorrect radar altitude information.

"There have been fatal accidents associated with incorrect radar altitude, most recently Turkish Airlines Flight 1951 in Amsterdam in 2009," the union said in a resource for pilots on its website.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, along with the ALPA, issued a joint statement earlier on Monday warning that if the rollout went through as planned there would be more flight delays and cancellations as well as more potentially dangerous situations.

Following the decision to postpone the rollouts, ALPA President Joe DePete said he is glad Verizon and AT&T were listening to them.

"It's clear that this irresponsible rollout of 5G wasn't ready for takeoff," he tweeted. "We are hopeful that this delay will enable the wireless industry and the broader aviation community to work together on effective solutions that will ensure that every passenger and cargo flight arrives safely without severe disruptions to aviation operations."

This article has been updated to include a statement from a T-Mobile representative that its 5G network is not impacted by the concerns from the FAA.

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