Both Verizon Communications and AT&T agreed to last-minute delays of their planned 5G C-Band rollouts late Tuesday.
The carriers’ decision came in response to an eleventh-hour plea from multiple airlines and aircraft manufacturers, all of which claimed that continuing with deployment of C-Band 5G services at any US airport could result in delays for both passenger and cargo flights due to the risk of C-Band towers interfering with radio altimeters.
This was the latest chapter in a roller-coaster series of events that began with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) approval of C-Band use for commercial services nearly two years ago. Despite the amount of intervening time which elapsed, it is only within the past several months that concerns were voiced by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) surrounding the planned launches of C-Band services by Verizon and AT&T.
It seemed as if a long-term settlement had been reached in the conflict earlier this month when all involved parties agreed to a list of 50 airports that would be granted buffer zones where no C-Band services would operate in order to safeguard flights there. However, a joint letter sent to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and other government officials from the aforementioned air transit companies shattered that truce on Monday, claiming disastrous consequences could result from deployments being allowed adjacent to any US airports at all.
While both carriers were, once again, initially resistant, they have both now agreed to halt their respective rollouts, which were scheduled to occur today, January 19, for the foreseeable future. For its part, AT&T told The Verge that it is “frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done,” referring to the ongoing use of C-Band spectrum services in other nations around the world. Verizon, meanwhile, posted a statement expressing largely similar sentiments.
Despite their comparable responses, the delay appears far more disruptive to Verizon’s plans than AT&T. Citing anonymous sources, The Wall Street Journal claimed that AT&T only needed to delay a total of 10 tower activations, while Verizon was required to delay “several hundred.”
The White House posted its own statement on the matter, noting that “more than 90% of wireless tower deployments” will proceed as scheduled. However, there has still been no word on concrete plans or a specific time frame from any government officials surrounding when C-Band launches near airports will be allowed.