US carriers warn Wednesday of ‘catastrophic disruption’ from 5G activation

CEOs of major US carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have warned that the impending deployment of new 5G spectrum on Wednesday could cause “catastrophic disruption” for flights across the country starting tomorrow. . The warning, which was also signed by shipping companies including UPS Airlines and FedEx Express, was issued in a letter from the CEOs seen by Reuters, who said both commercial and cargo flights could be affected.

The letter was sent to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Jessica Rosenworcel, FAA administrator Steve Dickson, and Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council. Reuters reports.

The 5G spectrum in question is known as C-band, and the AT&T and Verizon implementations will go live on Wednesday, January 19 after multiple previous delays. At the heart of the problem is the fear that these new C-band airwaves could interfere with sensitive radar altimeters on certain aircraft, my colleague Russell Brandom explained earlier this month. Altimeters are critical to landings, especially when visibility is limited, and failures in this system have been linked to a fatal 2009 Turkish Airlines crash.

“Aircraft manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operational fleet that may need to be grounded indefinitely,” the airlines wrote in their letter. Immediate intervention is needed to prevent significant operational disruption to airline passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies, which could cause “chaos” and “strand tens of thousands of Americans abroad”.

“When deployed next to runways, the 5G signals could interfere with key safety equipment pilots rely on to take off and land in inclement weather,” United Airlines said in its own statement. The edge. Without further guarantees, the rollout of this 5G spectrum could “result in significant restrictions on 787s, 777s, 737s and regional jets in major cities” and “cause hundreds of thousands of flight cancellations and disruptions for customers across the industry by 2022, [and] including the suspension of cargo flights to these locations.”

While there is technically a 220MHz gap between the spectrum used by the aircraft’s equipment and the new 5G spectrum, airlines fear that the older equipment in some aircraft may still be affected. Air safety issues have already delayed the rollout of C-band from last December to this week.

United is calling for the deployment of 5G “all over the country by January 19, except within about 2 miles of airport runways at affected airports.” It indicates that the size of this buffer can be reduced after further analysis by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). On Jan. 3, Verizon and AT&T previously agreed to take steps to mitigate the potential impact on aviation, including placing buffer zones around 50 airports for six months.

C-band spectrum has already been rolled out in almost 40 countries without causing altimeter failure according to a tech trade group, and United says proper government policies could allow safe deployment in the US.

AT&T and Verizon have a lot to do with this new spectrum, for which they paid $65 billion at auction last year. Both need the extra spectrum to meet 5G traffic demands, especially given AT&T’s plans to shut down its 3G network next month.

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