Sunday, August 14, 2022

AT&T, Verizon stop some new 5G after airlines sound the alarm


David Koenig, Associated Press

Published Tuesday, January 18, 2022 10:24 PM EST

The nation’s biggest airlines said AT&T and Verizon would delay launching new wireless service near major airports, a service that would interfere with aircraft technology and cause widespread flight disruption.

The decision from the companies came on Tuesday after the Biden administration tried to strike a deal between telcos and airlines on the rollout of the new 5G service after broker intervention.

The companies said they would launch 5G or fifth-generation service on Wednesday, but they would delay the commissioning of 5G cell towers within a 2-mile radius of the runway designated by federal officials. He didn’t say how long he would keep those towers idle.

President Joe Biden said that AT&T and Verizon’s decision will “avoid potentially catastrophic disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90% of wireless tower deployments to happen as scheduled.” ” He said that the administration will continue to work on a permanent solution.

Despite concessions by telecommunications companies, federal officials said there could be some cancellations and delays due to the limitations of some equipment. Aeroplane, Delta Air Lines also said there could be issues with operating flights in bad weather because of airport restrictions regulators issued last week, when the 5G rollout appeared on schedule.

The new high-speed wireless service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters, which are instruments that measure aircraft altitude above the ground. Altimeters are used to help pilots land when visibility is low, and they connect to other systems Aeroplane,

AT&T and Verizon say their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics, and that the technology is being used safely in 40 other countries.

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However, CEOs of 10 passenger and cargo airlines, including American, Delta, United and Southwest, say 5G will be more disruptive than previously thought. That’s because dozens of large airports were subject to flight restrictions announced by the Federal Aviation Administration last week if 5G service was deployed nearby. The CEO said those restrictions would not be limited to when visibility is poor.

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will inevitably be grounded. This means that in a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers will be subject to cancellations, diversions or delays,” the CEO said in a letter to federal officials on Monday. “To be blunt, the country’s commerce will come to a standstill.”

The protests between the airline and telecommunications industries and their rival regulators – the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission, which oversee radio spectrum – threatened to further disrupt the aviation industry, which has been hit by the pandemic for nearly two years.

It was a crisis that took years to build.

Airlines and the FAA say they have tried to raise the alarm about possible interference from 5G C-band but were ignored by the FCC.

In telecommunications, the FCC and their supporters argue that C-band and aircraft altimeters operate long enough over the radio spectrum to avoid interference. They also say that the aviation industry has known about C-band technology for many years, but did little to prepare – airlines chose not to upgrade altimeters that could be subject to interference, and the FAA Failed to start surveying equipment. Aeroplane for the last few weeks.

Randall Berry, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Northwestern University, compared the issue of interference to two stations overlapping on a radio dial. The FCC-determined separation “may be sufficient for some (altimeters) but not for others,” he said.

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One solution could be outfitting all altimeters with good filters against interference, Berry said, though who can pay for that work — airlines or telecommunications companies.

Called mid-band spectrum after rival T-Mobile acquired Sprint, AT&T and Verizon, a government auction conducted by the FCC spent billions of dollars for C-band spectrum to meet its own mid-band needs. be completed. , then spent billions more to build the new networks they planned to launch in early December.

In response to concern by the airlines, however, they initially agreed to delay the service until early January.

On New Year’s Eve, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Stephen Dixon asked the companies for another delay, warning of “unacceptable disruption” to air service.

AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg rejected the request in a letter that contained a scolding, even mocking tone. But after the intervention reached the White House, his views were different. The CEO agreed to a second, shorter delay, but that meant there would be no longer a settlement.

In that deal, telcos agreed to reduce the power of their networks near 50 airports for six months, similar to wireless restrictions in France. In return, the FAA and the Department of Transportation promised not to further oppose the rollout of 5G C-band.

Biden praised that deal as well, but the airlines were not satisfied with the deal, treating it as a victory for telcos who did not adequately address their concerns.

Associated Press Writers Tali Arbell in New York and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this story.

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