Technology

AT&T, Verizon push back against Buttigieg’s request to delay 5G rollout

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Cell phone carriers AT&T and Verizon pushed back on Sunday at a request by several officials to delay a rollout of their 5G wireless services, set to start this week, and instead suggested several other voluntary measures to take.

AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO and chairman Hans Vestberg said their companies would continue to limit their use of 5G services for the first half of 2022 as they initially proposed last year, including to “adopt the same C-Band radio exclusion zones that are already in use in France, with slight adaptation to reflect the modest technical differences in how C-band is being deployed in the two countries,” which they said would include “extensive exclusion zones around the runways at certain airports.”

AT&T and Verizon said this would remain effective until July 5.

“As you know, U.S. aircraft currently fly in and out of France every day with thousands of U.S. passengers and with the full approval of the FAA. As a result, France provides a real-world example of an operating environment where 5G and aviation safety already co-exist,” the two executives wrote.

“The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France. If U.S. airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States, as we propose in the technical details attached to this letter,” they added.

In a statement, the FAA said they were reviewing the letter from AT&T and Verizon. 

“U.S. aviation safety standards will guide our next actions,” the FAA said.

When asked for comment, the Transportation Department referred The Hill back to the FAA’s statement.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in a tweet on Sunday that she hoped that both sides were trying to meaningfully resolve the issue, saying that part of the letter may be misleading. 

“I sincerely hope the parties are meeting in good faith to resolve this issue. This sentence concerns me because it demonstrates the parties are not operating off the same set of facts. The systems, both air traffic and telecom, are not the same in the two countries,” Nelson said, concerning the letter’s mention of France and U.S. 

In a letter dated on Friday to AT&T and Verizon, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration administrator Steve Dickson requested that the two companies delay their 5G services “for an additional short period of no more than two weeks beyond the currently scheduled deployment date of January 5” amid airline concerns that the 5G rollout could pose flight disruptions.

The two noted that, with the exception of certain priority airports, 5G service could be rolled out as planned. 

Buttigieg and Dickson said that “the FAA and the aviation industry will identify priority airports where a buffer zone would permit aviation operations to continue safely while the FAA completes its assessments of the interference potential around those airports.”

The 5G wireless services would be rolled out near priority airports on a rolling basis, the two U.S. officials said, “such that C-Band planned locations will be activated by the end of March 2022, barring unforeseen technical challenges or new safety concerns.”

Tags 5G AT&T FAA Pete Buttigieg Pete Buttigieg Steve Dickson Transportation Department Verizon

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