FAA urges US airlines to fix airport 5G issues ahead of imminent rollout

Drone flying near commercial airplane

A letter from US flight regulator the Federal Aviation Administration asked airlines to ‘move quickly to address risks from a 5G wireless rollout,’ according to an exclusive from Reuters.

Following the spat between the telecoms industry and the aviation industry which centred around the idea some were worried 5G signals in C-band spectrum might interfere with planes as they land and take off from airports, Reuters has got hold of a letter from the FAA addressed to airlines seemingly encouraging them to get a move on with preparations for the impending rollout, which was previously delayed while everyone worked out what to do.

Aside from a couple of quotes, Reuters opts to describe the sentiment of the letter rather than publish it, but to take its word for it acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolan urged the chief executives of major US airlines to move quickly to address risks from a 5G wireless rollout, in a bid to avoid potential disruptions at key airports from next month when AT&T and Verizon intend to boost C-band 5G services around some airports.

Nolen apparently asked airlines to urgently press ahead with retrofitting radio altimeters, saying “there are no guarantees that all large markets will retain the current (safeguards),” and warned that as operators boost signals some “less capable aircraft” may be unable to access certain airports without altimeter retrofits. The date of the rollout “is rapidly approaching,” he said.

“We are working toward an equally aggressive schedule that would necessitate the completion of retrofits for the third and largest group in 2023…as the situation stands, Verizon and AT&T plan to pursue a full rollout of their networks by the end of 2023,” said Nolan.

In response Verizon told Reuters this that it expects a “robust deployment of C-band without significant disruptions to the traveling public.”

Verizon and AT&T said in January that they would not turn on 5G networks in C-band spectrum near airports while it was all being worked out, amid an ongoing dispute with aviation authorities. The rollout had already been deferred once after the FAA and FCC claimed in November 2021 that 5G may interfere with airplane cockpit safety systems. After the initial delay of a month, various escalations to the US secretary of transportation and even president Biden led to numerous extensions.


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