AT&T, Verizon Postpone 5G Rollout Near Airports Amid Pressure From Government, Aviation Officials
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: CEO, AT&T Entertainment Group AT&T John Stankey speaks at the MediaLink Presents: MASS-terclass: The New Age of Mass Personalization panel on the Times Center Stage during 2016 Advertising Week New York on September 28, 2016 in New York City.
John Lamparski/Getty Images for Advertising Week New York

Shortly after refusing a last-minute federal request, AT&T and Verizon have now agreed to postpone the rollout of upcoming 5G technology near airports by two weeks, following concerns over safety.

Late on Monday evening, AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay the activation of 5G services in the vicinity of airports until January 19. In the meantime, officials will continue to work on the application of restrictions used in France regarding 5G technology.

“At Secretary [of Transportation Pete] Buttigieg’s request, we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay of our deployment of C-Band 5G services,” an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement. “We also remain committed to the six-month protection zone mitigations we outlined in our letter. We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.”

Spokesman Rich Young confirmed that Verizon would also agree to the two-week delay, and that such a decision “promises the certainty of bringing this nation our game-changing 5G network in January delivered over America’s best and most reliable network.”

“The announcement comes as aviation industry officials had been expected to sue the Federal Communications Commission in a last-ditch bid to keep the rollout from taking effect on Jan. 5,” CNN reported. “Preparations to file the court petition were already underway when news of the agreement arrived, according to an airline industry official, who said that the litigation would be paused in light of the two-week extension.”

In a statement, the FAA thanked the wireless carriers.

“Safety is the core of our mission and this guides all of our decisions,” the agency said. “We look forward to using the additional time and space to reduce flight disruptions associated with this 5G deployment.”

This follows news that AT&T and Verizon initially rejected U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s last-minute plea that their scheduled launch of the latest 5G wireless technology be delayed due to safety concerns.

“With continued COVID crises, it has never been more important that our country’s critical communications infrastructure have the spectrum needed to handle escalating traffic demands from our customers,” AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg wrote in a joint letter on Sunday.

Earlier in December, the heads of aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus warned against the upcoming plans to deploy new 5G wireless networks, arguing that the technology could endanger the reliability of vital aircraft safety systems.

Both Dave Calhoun, Chief Executive of Boeing, and Jeffrey Knittel, the CEO of Airbus Americas, urged the Biden administration to delay the rollout of 5G.

In a statement, Boeing said the aerospace industry was “focused on fully evaluating and addressing the potential for 5G interference with radio altimeters,” according to NPR.

“We are collaborating with aviation authorities, government leaders, airlines, and industry groups to ensure the continued operational safety of aircraft throughout the aviation system worldwide,” it said.

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