AT&T, Verizon to delay activating some 5G towers over airline disruption fears

Delta jets sit idle at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis in December. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
1 of 3 | Delta jets sit idle at St. Louis-Lambert International Airport in St. Louis in December. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 18 (UPI) -- AT&T and Verizon both announced Tuesday that the companies have agreed to temporarily delay activating a limited number of their 5G towers when the rest of their networks go live Wednesday.

AT&T, the world's largest telecommunications company, will hold off on activating towers within 2 miles of airports, USA Today reported.


"At our sole discretion, we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they've had to responsibly plan for this deployment. We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers," AT&T said in a statement to NBC.

Verizon issued a similar response Tuesday afternoon.

"As the nation's leading wireless provider, we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports," reads the company's statement.

"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation's airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries. Thanks to the best team in the industry for delivering this technology which promises a revolutionary next step in wireless communications including tremendous benefits for our nation."


Verizon was still publicizing the launch Tuesday afternoon.

As late as Monday, U.S. air carriers had called on President Joe Biden to stop the technology from being rolled out near the nation's airports, saying doing so would cause "significant operation disruption" to air passengers, shippers and supply chains.

A letter signed by executives of the country's 10 leading airlines was sent Monday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Stephen Dickson and others asking them to halt deployment within 2 miles of airport runways.

The from Airlines for America, says "airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded," according to NBC.

Airlines are worried that signals produced by the 5G technology will disrupt or interfere with on-board radar altimeters. Such a loss can be dangerous for pilots, resulting in an incorrect altitude reading.

This comes after both telecom companies agreed earlier this month to delay the launch of their 5G C-band technology.


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