AT&T and Verizon said Monday they will delay activating new 5G wireless service for two weeks following a request by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who cited the airline industry’s concern that the service could interfere with systems on planes.
In a statement Monday night, AT&T also repeated its promise to further reduce power of the networks around airports for six months to give regulators more time to study potential interference with air traffic.
AT&T and Verizon had planned to launch the new 5G service on Wednesday in many U.S. cities, but a trade group for the airline industry filed an emergency request asking regulators to temporarily block the move.
“At Secretary Buttigieg’s request, we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay of our deployment of C-Band 5G services,” an AT&T spokeswoman said in a statement. “We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.”
On Friday, Buttigieg and Stephen Dickson, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, asked the companies to delay their C-band 5G rollout for up to two weeks. They warned that without a delay, there would be “unacceptable disruption” to aviation because flights would be canceled or diverted to other cities to avoid potential risks to air safety.
The officials’ warning followed a request by a major airline trade group to delay the 5G rollout. Airlines for America told the Federal Communications Commission that using C-band 5G near dozens of airports could interfere with electronics that pilots rely on. The group said it had raised the issue before but was given little attention by the FCC.
The conflict between telecommunications companies and airlines — and between the FCC and the FAA — involves a type of 5G service that relies on chunks of radio spectrum called C-Band, which wireless carriers spent billions of dollars to buy up last year.