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US 5G rollout faces yet another delay thanks to the aviation issue

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given airlines until February 2024 to fix altimeters that may clash with C-band 5G spectrum.

This is the latest chapter in the saga concerning feared interference by 5G using the 3.7-4.2 GHz band with some airplane altimeters, which has been running since late 2021. The last time we checked in on the matter AT&T and Verizon had agreed to delay rolling out their C-band 5G anywhere near airports until July this year but it looks like they’re facing further delays of at least another six months.

A new notice of proposed rulemaking from the FAA proposes giving airlines a deadline of February 1st 2024 to upgrade their altimeters such that there’s no chance of 5G over C-band messing with them. That means, of course, that US operators will have to delay their rollouts until at least that date.

According to statements received by Light Reading, the US telecoms industry has taken the latest news well, while the aviation industry still seems to think it needs longer.

“The wireless industry continues to work closely and collaboratively with the FAA and, as this notice makes clear, the FAA’s schedule for altimeter updates is reasonable and practical,” said wireless industry association the CTIA in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work together with all stakeholders to meet the FAA’s deadlines.”

“While our industry strongly supports 5G deployment, safety is – and always will be – the top priority of US airlines,” said the Airlines for America trade association in a statement. “A4A member carriers are working diligently to ensure fleets are equipped with compliant radio altimeters, but global supply chains continue to lag behind current demand. Any government deadline must consider this reality. We will continue to work with all stakeholders, including the federal government, toward our common goal of ensuring the aviation system remains the safest mode of transportation in the world.”

A4A seems to be saying the chip shortage means it will be difficult to get hold of replacement equipment for the whole of this year. That may be the case, but airlines have also consistently lobbied for more time since this saga began. Telcos are in a tricky situation because, while they’re probably very frustrated at the delays, they can’t be seen to take any safety concerns lightly. See you in a year.

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