Federal safety regulators announced today that they have worked out a solution with Verizon (NYSE:VZ) and AT&T (NYSE:T) to power up more towers for 5G) connectivity service without causing radio interference and disrupting flight operations at airports.
After receiving detailed information from telecommunications companies about the location of wireless transmitters, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) took steps to allow the deployment of additional 5G C-Band towers near airports without disrupting flights.
“The FAA is working to ensure that radio signals from newly activated wireless telecommunications systems can coexist safely with flight operations in the United States, with input from the aviation sector and telecommunications industry,” a spokesperson told Connectivity Business.
The agency announced this week that it has approved 90% of commercial aircraft to perform most low-visibility landings at airports where 5G is deployed, up from 78% last week. This comes after telecoms have provided more precise data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with sensitive aircraft instruments, according to the FAA.
“The FAA used this data to determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations,” the spokesperson said.
5G connectivity rollout
Terrestrial companies have been rolling out 5G slowly since 2019. Telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon in 2021 spent billions to buy key airwaves for running the next-generation service.
But when it was time to flip the switch, a 5G standoff ensued, pitting airlines and the FAA against wireless carriers and the Federal Communications Commission.
5G companies had been working to launch a new portion of their networks slated to debut in December 2021. The launch was unexpectedly pushed back due to vague air safety concerns. Just days before the scheduled launch, the FAA blocked some airplanes from making low-visibility landings at airports where 5G is deployed. The Department of Transportation stepped in and asked for more time to review the plans.
In a deal brokered earlier this month, the FAA, Verizon, and AT&T agreed that about 500 towers near airports — less than 10 percent of 5G deployment — would not be turned on temporarily due to interference concerns.
The FAA said it will “continue to work with helicopter operators and others in the aviation community to ensure they can safely operate in areas of current and planned 5G deployment.”