Wireless service providers Verizon Communications and AT&T have agreed to delay their 5G network deployment near specific airports after concerns were raised over aircraft safety. This comes as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and significant airline officials cited that the 5G rollout will likely impact safety equipment in some aircraft. This news comes as the Biden administration earlier announced it's in consultation with airlines, government agencies, and telecom companies about the dispute and how to best proceed. Airport officials say rolling out 5G (in it’s current iteration) near particular runways might require multiple aircraft types to be grounded until a resolution can be found.
National Airspace System Competing Bids for Aviation and Telecommunications
Frequencies used in aviation altimeters and mobile communication companies could also interfere with the National Airspace System (NAS). Stakeholders have been addressing the issue since 2015, with some limited success. As a result, the FAA asked for the 5G rollout to be postponed before starting 5G auctions in 2020. The agency cited potential interference that could degrade the function of radar altimeters during vital flight phases. This could preclude landing operations, low-visibility landing, and terrain alerts for altimeter-based radar.
Select Airports and Altimeters Cleared for 5G
FAA asked Verizon and AT&T to postpone the planned January 5G rollout in a letter in December 2022. The agency requested additional time to pinpoint priority airports that require buffer zones, and study which aircrafts may be affected. According to a November 2021 letter from Verizon, the company agreed to the Federal Communication Commission's technical restrictions and precautionary measures, however, the Aerospace Industries Association found these measures inadequate and have again delayed the process.
In January, the FAA said approximately 45% of commercial aircraft in the United States could implement low visibility landings in 5G planned airports, meaning not all aircrafts may need a new fitting in order to operate safely. The agency also published a list of 50 airports requiring buffers for enhanced aircraft safety operations in specific airports, which includes some of the busiest airports in the world like John F. Kennedy International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. These buffers, if fully implemented, would likely cause major delays and issues to an industry already reeling from mass cancellations due to Covid-19.
Addressing the U.S 5G Technology Development
With the latest development of further 5G network delays, the US is falling further behind other developed countries in infrastructure rollout. Areas like China and Europe are already benefitting from widespread 5G rollouts, and industry experts worry about the rate at which the United States is progressing. While the 5G delay in selected airports does not significantly halt the expansion of the network nationwide, it does leave large gaps in coverage, especially when affected airports lie in major metropolitan areas.
The 5G network is a critical step for telecommunication companies. It features increased bandwidth, higher capacity, and lower latency than existing 3G and 4G networks. According to experts, the technology will improve day-to-day activities including how people work, travel, and play globally. The technology will also fuel business operations especially as companies continue to go remote.
The Market Impact
As we wait for the full 5G network rollout, some airlines are already beginning to cancel selected flights due to the interference. The launch, and subsequent delay of this technology mean the financial markets remain unpredictable. The affected telecommunication firms continue to fight the delay, after already spending more than $80 billion for the frequency. Their inability to fully utilize or market the service has consumers and shareholders alike awaiting a resolution.
Get the latest from The Futurist every afternoon in your inbox
Check out some of the newest posts from The Futurist