Verizon and AT&T have once again agreed to delay their 5G rollout, pushing back some deployments as far as mid-2023.
The FAA, FCC, Verizon, and AT&T have reached a new compromise over the wireless carriers’ C-band 5G spectrum. The spectrum sits relatively close to the frequencies used by aircraft altimeters, causing concerns that 5G equipment could impact the safety of flights. Under the new compromise, Verizon and AT&T will delay 5G expansion in some areas until mid-2023 to give the airline industry time to install radio frequency filters.
The two companies, along with the FCC, FAA, and the airline industry, were involved in a very public spat over the C-band spectrum. The carriers spent a whopping $68 billion at an FCC auction to acquire the spectrum, which sits in the sweet spot for 5G in terms of speed, coverage, and building penetration. As the companies prepared to roll it out, however, the FAA and airline industry pushed back, citing safety concerns.
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The issue reached a point that prompted President Biden to weigh in. In addition, Congress expressed its displeasure at seeing two government agencies at odds with one another, especially over things as critical as communications and flight safety.
Representative Garret Graves of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee accused the two agencies of playing “chicken with one another – or whatever ridiculousness happened – and now we ended up threatening aviation safety. We had flights canceled. … It’s embarrassing.”
Under the new plan, it appears the FAA and the wireless carriers were able to reach a mutual agreement without all the drama that has surrounded this issue to date.
“We believe we have identified a path that will continue to enable aviation and 5G C-band wireless to safely co-exist,” said Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen. “We appreciate the willingness of Verizon and AT&T to continue this important and productive collaboration with the aviation industry.”
Once the radio frequency filters are installed, by July 2023, Verizon and AT&T will be free to deploy their spectrum “in urban areas with minimal restrictions.”