Airlines Warn of Hefty Costs, Flight Delays as Verizon And AT&T Reject 5G Delay
© AP Photo / Alastair GrantFILE - In this Tuesday, Jan 28, 2020 file photo, mobile network phone masts are visible in front of St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London. Dozens of European cell towers have been destroyed in recent arson attacks that officials and wireless companies say are fueled by groundless conspiracy theories linking new 5G mobile networks and the coronavirus pandemic.
© AP Photo / Alastair Grant
The airline industry and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) fear major costs, delays, and safety issues will be on the horizon if adjustments are not made to the 5G rollout plan by major companies AT&T and Verizon that are set to start Jan. 5, 2022. The mobile companies’ original start date for the rollout had been Dec. 5, 2021.
The Airlines for America trade group predicts that up to 350,000 commercial flights and 32 million travelers will be impacted by the looming 5G rollout that could potentially result in costs of up to $2.1 billion for the industry.
However, wireless tycoons have cited their costs as a reason to continue with the introduction of 5G services, having already invested some $80 billion in an auction for access to the 5G frequencies.
US Transportation Secretary Buttigieg and Stephen Dickson, who is head of the FAA, earlier requested a two-week delay in a Friday letter to the mobile companies, which was subsequently rejected by the receiving parties.
“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,” chief executive of Verizon Hans Vestburg and chief executive of AT&T John Stakey said in response to requests for the delay. “Even worse, the proposal is directed to only two companies.”
The figures issued their response just two days after the request was made.
Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have also cited safety concerns stemming from the rollout, explaining that the frequencies of the 5G signals could have an effect on the altitude-sensing radar altimeters that could potentially result in unsafe landings.
A compromise, however, may be on the horizon for the two major industries, as the mobile companies have expressed a willingness to delay their 5G launch for up to 6 months - but only in specific airports selected through negotiations with US officials and the aviation industry. These would most likely include what Buttigieg and Dickson referred to in their Friday letter as “priority airports.”
The six-month offer is being modeled after a similar one taken in France, which the FAA has made clear that Paris already uses lower power levels for their 5G than is currently allowed in the US.
13 December 2021, 14:43 GMT
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) feels confident that after several years of study, the frequencies used by the 5G should not impact radar altimeters as the two are separated by more than 200 megahertz of blank “guard band” spectrum.
Relations between the wireless companies and airlines could grow increasingly unsteady as Airlines for America has threatened to go to court sometime the first week of January if the FAA refuses their request for a delay.