FAA Greenlights Telecom Operators Buildup of 5G Network Near Airports
Federal aviation regulators and leading US airlines have expressed concerns that 5G signals could interfere with altitude gauges on particular passenger plane models, such as the widely used Boeing 777.
After new safety testing revealed that 5G towers do not interfere with important aircraft instruments, federal authorities will let telecom giants AT&T and Verizon build more new technology towers closer to airports, the Federal Aviation Administration announced on Friday.
"Through continued technical collaboration, the FAA, Verizon, and AT&T have agreed on steps that will enable more aircraft to safely use key airports while also enabling more towers to deploy 5G service," the news release said. "The FAA appreciates the strong communication and collaborative approach with wireless companies, which have provided more precise data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and supported more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with sensitive aircraft instruments."
The FAA explained that wireless companies now will be permitted to build more towers after determining that "it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations."
The data "will enable wireless providers to safely turn on more towers as they deploy new 5G service in major markets across the United States," according to the FAA. The news comes just days after the FAA approved low-visibility landings in locations where 5G towers would be installed for about 90% of US commercial aircraft.
The FAA and aviation groups expressed concern earlier that the companies' 5G service, which uses a part of the radio spectrum called C-Band, was too close to the spectrum range used by instruments that measure the height of planes above the ground — crucial information for landing in low visibility.
According to reports, in an $80-billion auction last year, AT&T and Verizon got nearly all of the C-Band spectrum.
Due to worries that 5G antennas near airports pose a safety risk to aircraft, both providers have bowed to pressure in recent months to delay its rollout, even as they begin delivering the service in major US cities.
Earlier this month, numerous major carriers, including Emirates, Lufthansa and Air India, canceled flights to the United States due to safety concerns, per media reports, citing statements. After Verizon and AT&T agreed to a restricted rollout of the 5G system, the airlines, which frequently use the Boeing 777, altered their decision.