While both AT&T’s and Verizon’s respective launches of faster 5G networks on Wednesday will go forward, both carriers announced on Tuesday they would be making some changes to their roll-out plans. This came after Monday’s warning by airlines that there could be significant travels disruptions if the launch of C-band 5G went ahead.
While both carriers have an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administrations to create buffer zones around fifty airports, AT&T is halting the rollout of even more towers than originally planned, and that the decision applies to a “limited number of towers around certain airport runways.” Verizon says it voluntarily decided to limit their 5G network around airports.”
It is pretty clear that both carriers are unhappy and frustrated with the situation. An AT&T spokesperson said in a statement, “At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment. Our company is “frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner.”
Verizon expressed similar frustration in a statement saying, “The FAA and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries.
“The truth is that this has been a nosebleed for both Verizon and AT&T, two-thirds of the wireless industry or more than two-thirds,” Chris Sambar, AT&T executive vice president of technology operations, told CNET on Tuesday. “It a pretty poor reflection on the FAA, unfortunately, that all of these other countries have been able to launch this and we haven’t been able to do it here. So, it’s a little frustrating,” Sambar added.
In an attempt to finally get the rollout started, AT&T and Verizon made an agreement with the FAA earlier this month, which would allow them to activate their towers on January 19, except for in select areas around 50 airports. On Monday, several airlines reportedly signed a letter sent to government officials, again warning about the rollout.
CNN reports that the Biden administration is in talks with the FAA, FCC, airlines, aircraft manufacturers and wireless carriers ahead of Wednesday’s launch. On Tuesday afternoon, the White House weighted in on the latest developments.
President Biden said in a statement Tuesday, “I want to thank Verizon and AT&T for agreeing to delay 5G deployment around key airports and to continue working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment at this limited set of locations. Expanding 5G and promoting competition in internet service are critical priorities of mine, and tomorrow will be a massive step in the right direction. My team has been engaging non-stop with the wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to chart a path forward for 5G deployment and aviation to safely co-exist, and, at my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remain gap and reach permanent, workable solution around these key airports.”
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, thanked the wireless carriers “for working with us to protect the flying public and the country’s supply chain.” He added, “The complex U.S. airspace leads the world in safety because of our high standards for aviation, and we will maintain this commitment as wireless companies deploy 5G.”