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AT&T, Verizon Quickly Back Down in Dispute With FAA

FAA Gets Two More Weeks, 5G Activation Set for Jan. 19

In a surprising turn, the telecoms companies standing up against the FAA folded almost as quickly as they began the fight. For all their sternly worded letters, they almost immediately acceded to postponing their 5G network activation set for January 5th, itself postponed from a mid-December introduction.

AT&T and Verizon have agreed to hold off on the activation of their 5G services until January 19, providing another handful of days for the FAA to get its ducks in a row. Under discussion is a mitigation effort that would put a 6-month  agreement into place, but details remain to be hammered out between the parties. One offer from the cell providers included voluntary limitations on 5G transmission output levels in the vicinity of airports. The already limited rollout for new 5G infrastructure likely means the majority of introductory markets will be collocated with high-traffic airports near metropolitan areas. 

An AT&T spokesman told news outlets that the deciding factor in favor of the postponement was the imposition of Transportation head Pete Buttigieg. "At Secretary Buttigieg's request, we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay of our deployment of C-Band 5G services. We also remain committed to the six-month protection zone mitigations we outlined in our letter. We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues."

The showdown has left onlookers in the technology and communications spheres somewhat baffled, as they point to successful rollout of 5G bands around the world with nary a visible impact on the aircraft operations. Technology enthusiasts eager for the connectivity improvements of 5G point out the lack of effort by most involved over the last year. The potential for 5G interference was known from the outset of the frequencies being auctioned. Stakeholders all around seem to have been caught with their pants down when the initial small-scale network activation came into view at the end of 2021, despite industry warnings long beforehand. Reportedly, aviation officials were in the preparatory stages of suing the FCC in a last-ditch bid to keep the rollout from taking effect on January 5, which are now paused in light of the 2-week breathing room. Another deal, another deadline, but the weeks could prove useful if all involved are capable of quickly aping the ‘French solution’ stated to be effective at mitigating interference in their transport system. Judicious output limitations for those transmitters closest to landing aircraft and careful consideration of flight standards could go far in ending the dispute, but chances are all involved will find that time passes far faster than they expect.



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