AT&T hit out at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday over an intensifying row about the rollout of C-Band 5G cellular services. The FAA is set to impose wide-sweeping restrictions that could heavily impact the airline industry if the 5G rollout goes ahead as planned on Wednesday. Major U.S. airlines have described the situation as “disastrous”.
A spokesperson for AT&T said the telecoms giant was dismayed that the FAA had failed to plan for the C-Band 5G rollout even though they knew it was coming for at least two years.
Airline industry heavyweights including American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker say they hope 5G and aviation can “safely co-exist” but additional safety mitigations need to be put in place urgently to prevent widespread travel chaos.
AT&T said it would further restrict the rollout of 5G around certain airports beyond a previously agreed ‘buffer’. A statement from the company blasted the airline industry, saying:
“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 frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it to do so in a timely manner. “
“We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers”.
Verizon also confirmed it would delay the launch of its C-Band 5G services around some U.S. airports as well.
The FAA is worried that the frequencies used for the 5G rollout are too close to the frequencies used by aircraft radio altimeters which allow planes to perform fully automatic landings in low visibility or poor weather.
The agency has issued around 1,500 ‘Notices to Air Missions’ (NOTAMs) which will restrict the use of automatic landings at some of the busiest airports in the United States including New York JFK and Los Angeles International Airport.
In a statement on Tuesday, the FAA said it would “continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G.”
“The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.