The two companies said on Nov. 4 that they would delay their 5G deployments until a month later on Jan. 5, 2022. This would allow them to address concerns regarding the FAA's warning about 5G radiation potentially interfering with airplane cockpit safety systems.
Both AT&T and Verizon have disputed claims that 5G signals are dangerous. Telecom industry officials also claim that available evidence does not show that proposed 5G towers will interfere with flight equipment. They note that cellphone carriers in several other countries already use 5G wireless frequencies.
Nevertheless, the two companies heeded the FAA's warning. AT&T said it would continue to work with the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). "It is critical that these discussions [are] informed by the science and the data. That is the only path to enabling experts and engineers to assess whether any legitimate coexistence issues exist," AT&T said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Verizon said its postponement of its 5G rollout was done "in the spirit of good faith." A company spokesman said in a statement: "We appreciate the FCC's work in its discussions with the FAA and others to ensure a data-driven analysis that will again demonstrate that 5G operations in this band pose no risk to flight safety."
In a Nov. 4 statement, the FCC and FAA confirmed the moves by the two carriers. "Aviation safety and technology leadership are national priorities and, with today's announcement, these companies have demonstrated their commitment to both."
The 5G technology allows for internet speeds much faster than the current 4G service. However, aviation industry groups have been warning federal officials about its potential safety implications and economic fallout. (Related: Brussels halts 5G deployment indefinitely: 5G project, says authorities, not compatible with radiation safety standards.)
The FAA earlier issued a special airworthiness information bulletin about the dangers of 5G interference. The Nov. 2 statement was directed at pilots, airlines and aerospace manufacturers.
According to the bulletin, the new C-Band for 5G mobile phones might interfere with key safety devices on aircraft. It pointed out that 5G signals can affect radio signals sent by radar altimeters, which measure how close an aircraft is to the ground.
"Action might be required to address potential interference with sensitive aircraft electronics," the FAA bulletin noted. To this end, the bulletin instructed pilots to remind passengers to turn off any 5G device they have or put them on airplane mode during flight. It also instructed pilots to notify the FAA of any signs of interference.
France has instituted a similar ban on 5G for some time now. In a bulletin, the country's Directorate General for Civil Aviation (DGAC) urged travelers to turn off their 5G mobile devices while in flight. It also issued guidance instructing air crew to immediately notify air traffic controllers if the plane experiences a disruption from 5G.
According to DGAC, 5G causes "signal interference from a close frequency source, of a strength that is similar or even superior to that of altimeters, [affecting] instruments that are extremely critical during landing." A spokesperson for the civil agency added that the use of 5G mobile devices mid-flight "could lead to risks of interference … potentially [resulting in] errors in altitude readings." (Related: French authorities warn that 5G technology can interfere with aircraft landing gear.)
Aside from airlines, the DGAC also reminded French mobile networks to ensure 5G cell sites are located an ample distance away from airports to limit the risk of interference. It had earlier issued caps on the signal strength coming from these sites, and had been doing testing since November 2020. The DGAC said it will continue monitoring signals from 5G base stations and testing the impact of the new mobile technology on airline flights.
Radiation.news has more articles about the potential impacts of 5G on airplane flights.