According to a letter from the Transportation Department, AT&T and Verizon Communications have agreed to postpone the installation of C-band wireless spectrum until January 19, but have secured critical guarantees that they would be able to start service this month.
After pressure from the White House, aviation unions, and threats from airlines to sue to stop the deployment, which might have affected thousands of daily flights, the deployment was postponed.
“The agreement assures that air operations will not be disrupted for the next two weeks and keeps us on schedule to dramatically decrease delays when AT&T and Verizon debut 5G on January 19th,” Biden added.
Concerns have been made by the aviation sector and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerning 5G’s possible interference with sensitive aircraft equipment, such as radio altimeters, which might cause flights to be disrupted.
In an email to staff on Tuesday, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg claimed the company sees no aviation safety issues with 5G, but that the FAA “intended to interrupt an already challenging period for air travel if we press through with our scheduled activation… We believed that giving the FAA some time to sort out its concerns with the aviation sector was the proper thing to do for the flying public, that includes our customers and all of us.”
In a letter seen by Reuters, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Chief Administrator Steve Dixon notified AT&T and Verizon that in the absence of any “unforeseen safety issues,” the agencies will not seek any more delays in the implementation of 5G wireless service beyond January 19.
They added that the deal “will provide us with more time and space to limit the effect on commercial aircraft.”
Unless “unforeseen aviation safety difficulties” emerge, the US agencies “will not seek or demand any additional delaying of C-Band deployment, in whole or in part, including a delay of resumption to ordinary operations,” according to the accompanying “final term sheet.”
Industry executives told reporters that Airlines for America, a trade organisation that represents American Airlines, FedEx, Delta Air Lines, and other airlines, was poised to sue if there was no delay.
AT&T and Verizon committed over the weekend to create six-month exclusion zones around select airports in a bid to mirror France’s precautions, but Buttigieg’s request for a two-week delay was denied.
The carriers will be given “a list of no more than 50 priority airports that they would suggest to be subject to the C-Band exclusion zones” that AT&T and Verizon recommended Sunday by Friday, according to the letter.
Additional requests for “voluntary surgical mitigation measures at any given airport” may be submitted, but AT&T and Verizon “have the right to decide whether any proposed mitigation, modifications, or changes are implemented.”
Last year, AT&T and Verizon acquired virtually all of the C-band spectrum in a $ 80 billion auction. Verizon spent a total of $52.9 billion for the network, including incentive payments and billing costs, in order to reach over 100 million Americans, while AT&T paid $23.4 billion.
After the FAA voiced safety concerns and the carriers implemented voluntary preventive measures for six months, AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay deployment by 30 days until January 5.
According to a wireless industry executive, the agreement ensures that deployment may begin this month.