AT&T And Verizon Reject Request To Delay 5G Roll Out

Big Telecom has a New Years’ resolution: 2022 is the year when, finally, finally, after much fanfare, delay, and rethinking, it executes its roll-out of 5G mobile service.

And they’re willing to do it by any means necessary— even if it means defying the US federal government, the pleading aviation industry, and risking a few planes falling out of the sky.

Infrequent Proposal

On Friday, the FAA and US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent a letter to AT&T and Verizon requesting a two-week delay for the planned January 5 launch of C-band spectrum 5G wireless services, which operate on a frequency that may overlap or interfere with those used by vital aviation tools. Specifically, the request called for a delay near “priority airports,” mostly located near major US cities. All of this comes after Verizon and AT&T already agreed in November to pause the network’s deployment until the New Year.

By Sunday, Stankey and Vestburg penned a letter in return. Their response? A resounding “no.” Amid the spat, both industries contend with high stakes:

  • In a letter to the FCC, powerful trade group Airlines for America claimed 5G interference may result in 4% of all US flights being diverted, delayed, or canceled. In 2019 terms, the group calculated 32 million passengers, 345,000 passenger flights, and 5,400 cargo flights would be affected— a cost of potentially billions of dollars.
  • AT&T and Verizon– which paid over $80 billion in a government auction for the rights to use the frequencies– claimed granting the FAA oversight over 5G rollout would constitute an “irresponsible abdication” of operating control over world-class technologies.

The French Concession: The telecom CEOs, however, did offer one point of compromise. If aviation interests deescalate, the telecoms would agree to certain “exclusion zones” near major airports for six months, a model that’s proven successful near French airports where US airlines safely land despite nearby 5G service operating on the pertinent frequency.

become smarter

Subscribe to The Daily Upside.

Become smarter with only 5 minutes every morning.