AT&T and Verizon Delay 5G Expansion to Address Aircraft Interference Concerns

According to The Wall Street Journal, Verizon and AT&T are delaying rollout of a 5G band in response to concerns over interference with aircraft safety systems.

C-Band spectrum was launched by the two companies on December 5. The C-band is a radio frequency band that covers frequencies between 3.7GHz to 4.2GHz. It is crucial for 5G network expansion. Verizon and AT&T are currently working together with the Federal Aviation Administration in order to ensure that there is no interference. This will delay the 5G deployment up until January 5.

The Federal Aviation Administration published a [PDF] warning on Tuesday about possible interference from 5G radar altimeters. These technology measure the distance between a plane and the ground. The FAA states that although there have been no "proven reports," the agency is still concerned about interference from equipment in countries with spectrum.

FAA has asked radio altimeter manufacturers for equipment details. It also suggested that radio altimeter companies conduct detailed testing to determine whether the hardware is susceptible of interference from C-band spectrum. The FAA has asked aircraft manufacturers to provide data about radio altimeters in use as well as to conduct their own interference testing.

CTIA, which is a trade association representing the wireless industry, stated that C-band spectrum could be safely used without interfering with aviation equipment. However, aviation groups have warned that 5G expansion could cause "major disruptions in passenger air travel, commercial transport and critical helicopter operations."

Margeret Boles, spokesperson for AT&T, stated in a statement that AT&T will work with the FAA and FCC to address interference concerns. She stated that it was crucial that these discussions are informed by science and data. "This is the only way to allow engineers and experts to determine if there are legitimate coexistence issues."