AT&T and Verizon have delayed their rollout of 5G service several times already and now the FAA wants the other 5G providers to do the same, according to a report in Reuters. The report references a letter dated Oct. 21 from the FAA to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), with the FCC chairperson copied.
In the letter, Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said “aviation safety would be compromised if the U.S. government does not codify certain additional operating limits in the 5G C-Band environment.”
The FAA first raised the issue of aircraft interference from 5G service near the end of 2021. The initial rollout of the service was pushed back from Dec. 5 2021 to Jan. 5 and then Jan. 19. When it finally did rollout, there were several flight cancellations due to concerns over potential interference.
The FAA, AT&T, and Verizon agreed to develop 5G buffer zones around 50 airports.
At issue is 5G’s possible interference with airplane altimeters. The FAA has been working with the aviation industry to fix the issue, but U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Congress in April that the issue would not be resolved by the summer deadline that had been set.
Reuters mentions that in the letter, Nolen asks for the FCC’s help in order to prevent the need for drastic measures by the FAA.
“The FAA would be forced to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public, raising the likelihood of flight disruptions across the United States,” Bolen wrote in the letter.
The FAA has no authority over the 5G providers. According to the Reuters article, it’s not sure whether the FCC can require it of the providers either.
The purpose of Nolen’s letter was to generate conversation among the FAA, FCC, and NTIA in order to find a solution.