The CEOs of the nation’s largest airlines and shipping carriers are asking for “immediate intervention” to block AT&T and Verizon from launching part of their highly anticipated 5G network within two miles of airports.
At issue is 5G’s C-Band, which wireless carriers invested billions on last year. Rollout is supposed to begin Wednesday, but industry group Airlines for America says the frequency could interfere with devices that measure airplane altitude and impact safety.
“Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded,” Airlines for America wrote Monday in a letter signed by the CEOs of Delta, American, United, Southwest, FedEx, UPS and more, who serve on the group’s board.
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“The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce and the broader economy are simply incalculable,” the letter continued. “Every one of the passenger and cargo carriers will be struggling to get people, shipments, planes and crews where they need to be. To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”
The letter was sent “with urgency” to the heads of the Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Communications Commission and National Economic Council and asked for “whatever action necessary to ensure that 5G is deployed except when towers are too close to airport runways until the FAA can determine how that can be safely accomplished without catastrophic disruption.”
The FAA is studying the potential impacts of 5G on flights and has preemptively ordered some Boeing 787 operators to take extra precautions when landing.
Wednesday’s expected rollout had already been pushed back two weeks at the request of FAA Administrator Stephen M. Dickson and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to avoid “unacceptable disruption” to aviation.
“With safety as its core mission, the FAA will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G,” the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.”
AT&T and Verizon have stood by the safety of 5G.
While both carriers declined comment Monday, an AT&T spokeswoman previously told AP, “We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.”
Contributing: Associated Press