U.S. phone carriers AT&T and Verizon agreed to temporarily delay turning on towers that are near key airport runways due to a potential crisis caused by 5G technology.
Both of the main wireless carriers launched new C-Band 5G technology but agreed to delay the deployment near airports because it was threatening to result in thousands of flight cancellations.
The decision comes following major airline executives asking the Biden administration to intervene in the rollout plan. They warned of “catastrophic” effects if the towers were to be turned on. Chief executives from passenger and cargo airlines, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, penned a letter to Biden, saying that unless major hubs are cleared to fly, the majority of both passenger traveling and shipping will be grounded.
The new high-speed services use technology that uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to the type of technology used to altimeters. Altimeters are devices that measure how high into the air the aircraft is. Pilots need it in order to land if there is poor visibility. It’s also linked to other systems on airplanes.
According to the Radio Technical Committee for Aeronautics, radar altimeters are the only sensor that is onboard civil aircraft, and if the sensors were to fail, it could lead to catastrophic incidents with fatalities.
Airline industry experts have said that the issue goes way behind commercial airlines, and will affect every area of aviation.
Apparently, the potential for the issue has been known for over a decade, but it was either accidentally or consciously overlooked when telecom companies were granted the franchises. The Trump administration’s commerce secretary Wilbur Ross auctioned off the C-Band 5G to the telecom companies.
In January of 2021, during Trump’s last weeks in office, the bandwidth was auctioned for $80 billion. The sale did not include any kind of regulation about proximity to airports, nor about the orientation and power of the transmitting nodes.