Prize Fight Between Telecoms And Airlines Put Back On Hold


The main event between corporate heavyweights—the airline and telecom industries— will have to hold off for another two weeks. Both sides today confirmed the agreement to delay launching the latter’s 5G network, in deference to the former’s concerns over mass flight cancellations due to safety concerns that the powerful broadband signals were close enough on the frequency range that they could corrupt airliners’ radar altimeters. Those altimeters are critical to extreme low-visibility approaches, including autoland procedures.

In a prepared statement, Rich Young, Verizon spokesperson, said, “We’ve agreed to a two-week delay which promises the certainty of bringing this nation our game-changing 5G network in January delivered over America’s best and most reliable network,” echoed by AT&T, which said its network would implement additional protective measures at vulnerable airports over the next six months.

Officials from the airline industry cited the resemblance of their mitigation recommendations to those already implemented in France. That is, limiting or cutting power involving 5G service providers in sensitive areas.

With the telecom giants refusing on Monday to consider the delay, trade group Airlines for America (A4A) had prepared a lawsuit to block the launch of the broadband services. That lawsuit is now shelved, at least temporarily. But A4A said they are keeping their hands close to that shelf, should the telecom giants reevaluate. The infrastructure for their 5G networks has cost AT&T and Verizon in excess of $80 billion to date.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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  1. Two questions:

    1) How long have we known this was coming?
    2) How can it be that we haven’t had sufficient testing to determine if this will actually be an issue?

    • The FAA is too busy eliminating offensive words and making flight instruction more complicated. The FAA probably called up the telecom companies and asked if their 5G system would interfere with aircraft navigation and they said it wouldn’t. Now three years later it’s a panic because the telecom companies didn’t actually know.

  2. As much as everyone including me like to bash the FAA on this issue, you have to remember that when the original standard for airborne radar altimeters was set it was still had to be approved by the FCC. Just look at the outcry when the FCC ended up eliminating the manufacture of 121.5mhz ELT’s. This is how the government forced owners to eventually change to the current ELT standard. This is looking like another move by the FCC to force owners to “upgrade” their radar equipment. When the FCC changed the broadcast standards for television, Congress had to provide for free digital tuners since everyone’s TV became obsolete. Since aviation does not have the numbers the TV consumers had, they think they can get away with making airplane owners pay for changes. Government bureaucracy at “work”.

  3. FYI AvWeb threads in mid-January and beyond have much information.

    Amongst trash comments that aviation/AvWeb seem to attract.

    (Note re conspiracy theories: Occam’s Razor is useful – pick the simplest explanation. In this case bureaucratic inertia and government politics including lobbying.