In a standoff that is placing Verizon, AT&T and the FCC against the FAA and the airline industry over the two carriers’ plans to upgrade their 5G wireless services, the mobile companies now say they have reached an agreement with the Department of Transportation. For Verizon, delaying the launch of the “C-band” spectrum means canceling a celebration scheduled for 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, which marks the start of the spectrum upgrade.
We’ve agreed to a two-week delay, promising the certainty of bringing this country our groundbreaking 5G network in January, delivered over America’s best and most reliable network.
At the request of Secretary Buttigieg, we have voluntarily agreed to an additional two-week delay in our deployment of C-Band 5G services. We also remain committed to the limitation of the six-month protection zones that we described in our letter. We know that aviation safety and 5G can coexist and we are confident that further cooperation and technical assessment will mitigate any problems.
FAA Communications Deputy Assistant Administrator Jeannie Shiffer made a statement to Best Fitness Bands, saying, “Safety is at the heart of our mission and it forms the basis for all of our decisions. The FAA thanks AT&T and Verizon for agreeing to a voluntary delay and We look forward to using the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G deployment.”
She also says the agreement will ensure the companies will use mitigations similar to those already in place in European countries. The deal will see those mitigations in place at about 50 airports for six months, and now the FAA says, “While U.S. standards and operating environments are unique, we believe it can significantly reduce disruptions to air operations.”
AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg wrote: “Agreeing to your proposal would not only be an unprecedented and unwarranted circumvention of the due process and checks and balances carefully crafted in the fabric of our democracy, but an irresponsible renunciation of the operational control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks that are as vital to our country’s economic vitality, public safety and national interests as the aviation industry.”
The companies said they would not comply with the request from the FAA and DOT to delay their upgrades of the C-band spectrum (already delayed by 30 days) for another two weeks. The executives continued to propose mitigation measures, such as those used in France, by creating a buffer zone around certain airports and lowering national energy levels.
According to the FAA, the controversy arose over “concerns that the 5G signal could interfere with the accuracy of an aircraft’s radio altimeter, without other measures being taken,” the FAA said. Those altimeters are critical to automated landings, and the FAA claims rolling out the changes could disrupt air traffic or affect safety.
Earlier this year, an FCC auction sold the two airlines the rights to use so-called “C-band” frequencies for a price of nearly $70 billion. Verizon and AT&T are eager to roll it out so that the new spectrum will not only provide ultra-fast 5G connectivity in specific areas using high-band millimeter wave technology and much slower 5G over low-band frequencies, but also offer intermediate performance. over much larger areas. T-Mobile currently uses mid-band spectrum that is not in the C-band.
Update January 3, 9:59 PM ET: Added a statement from FAA, information about the agreement and confirmation that Verizon has canceled its launch event.