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Executives of major U.S. airlines and cargo shippers warned Monday of a “catastrophic disruption” of flights and shipping coming when new nationwide 5G service begins rolling out Wednesday from AT&T and Verizon.
The letter, first reported on by Reuters and obtained by Forbes, was signed by executives of leading airlines and shippers including American, Delta, United, UPS and FedEx Express through the group Airlines For America.
The letter asked that 5G C-Band service not be deployed within two-miles of certain airport runways to avoid “harmful” interference “on the aviation industry, traveling public, supply chain, vaccine distribution, our workforce and broader economy.”
If “immediate action” isn’t taken, “the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” potentially affecting over 100,000 travelers and stranding tens of thousands of people overseas, the letter said.
The letter was addressed to the heads of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission, Brian Deese, the National Economic Council Director, Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation, and copied the CEOs of AT&T and Verizon.
Sunday, the FAA released a statement on the upcoming 5G service implementation, saying 45% of U.S. commercial flights were cleared to land at airports where 5G will be deployed and that more will be cleared in the coming days, though Airlines For America said in the letter that FAA’s statement “minimizes the fact that they are not granting relief to airports that are used by most of the traveling and shipping public.”
“To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt,” the letter read.
16 times. That’s how much faster 5G service is than 4G.
Verizon and AT&T won the rights to implement 5G C-Band service last year, though doing so has been a process of starts and stops because of worries about the impact on the air industry. 5G can potentially affect the accuracy of radio altimeters, which airplanes rely on when flying at low heights and when there is rough weather. On December 31, after being asked to delay their 5G implementation, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and AT&T CEO John Stankey issued a joint letter, writing, “Our two companies are deeply committed to public safety and national security, and fortunately, the question of whether operations can safely coexist with aviation has long been settled.” Two weeks ago, the companies agreed to delay the start of 5G service and to stave off delays or interruptions, and the FAA announced 50 airports around the country that will have “buffer zones,” where service will be minimal or nonexistent, when service is turned on.