Multiple aviation industry associations are pleading with federal officials to pause the deployment of fifth-generation wireless services out of concern the signals could interfere with aircraft safety systems. Two major wireless carriers agreed Monday to push back the deployment by two weeks but are rejecting a longer delay.
5G rollout on the C-band of the wireless spectrum was set to begin Wednesday. In a letter to the White House, a coalition of aviation associations asked for a delay, saying the rollout could bring further disruptions at a time when COVID-19 is already stressing airline systems.
“We are just hours away from this C-band 5G rollout, yet the aviation industry is still anxiously awaiting details on how aviation will be impacted and on how crew members will need to operate to maintain safety and minimize disruptions,” the coalition said.
Industry groups are concerned that 5G signals could affect aircraft electronics like radio altimeters, leading to potentially thousands of flight delays and cancellations, the Reuters news agency reported. The Federal Aviation Administration has raised similar concerns.
Coalition members include Airports Council International-North America, Aerospace Industries Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Experimental Aircraft Association, General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, International Air Transport Association, National Air Carrier Association, National Business Aviation Association and Regional Airline Association.
Airlines for America—which is not a member of the coalition—told congressional lawmakers in December that if 5G had been deployed in 2019, “approximately 345,000 passenger flights, 32 million passengers and 5,400 cargo flights would have been impacted in the form of delayed flights, diversions or cancellations.”
A4A has warned it may go to court if the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t order a pause.
The chief executives of AT&T and Verizon Communication have offered to put in place temporary safeguards to address airlines industry concerns, including a two-week delay of the commercial deployment of the technology, with a six-month delay around airports, Reuters reported. They noted similar exclusion zones were implemented in France.
“The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France,” the CEOs said. “If U.S. airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States.”