Verizon and AT&T agree to delay 5G rollout to prevent flight cancellations and delays

Photo (c) Namthip Muanthongthae - Getty Images

Consumers can still take advantage of new 5G services outside of airports

There’s apparently been a deal cut regarding the chaos that AT&T and Verizon’s new 5G service would create on airplanes' instruments and guidance systems.

As the clock ticked precariously toward the launch of the 5G enhancement, the White House stepped in late Tuesday to referee the situation. It apparently was able to get the telecom companies to agree to delay 5G C-band deployment around key airports and help airlines avoid a rash of potentially canceled flights.

“This agreement will avoid potentially devastating disruptions to passenger travel, cargo operations, and our economic recovery, while allowing more than 90 percent of wireless tower deployment to occur as scheduled,” President Biden said in a statement.

“This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans. Expanding 5G and promoting competition in internet service are critical priorities of mine, and tomorrow will be a massive step in the right direction.”

The 5G fuss

To some, this issue is a tempest in a teapot. Trade association CTIA – which represents the U.S. wireless communications -- claims that 5G C-band communications operate safely without causing harmful interference to aviation equipment. Putting some numbers to that assertion, it says that nearly 40 countries already use the service with no impact on aviation.

However, the Biden administration is playing it safe. The President said this pause will give the wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers an opportunity to work with the Department of Transportation on a safe way to make their 5G hopes a reality. He also stated that his team is already on the case and engaging with all parties.

“At my direction, they will continue to do so until we close the remaining gap and reach a permanent, workable solution around these key airports," Biden said.

Consumers can still get the new 5G service 

AT&T and Verizon may be standing down at the airport, but that doesn't mean consumers won't have access to new 5G services.

AT&T said that its new 5G+ is available in parts of 44 cities in the U.S. as well as in public and private venues like stadiums, arenas, school campuses, hospitals, and concert halls.

Wednesday morning, Verizon stepped aside from the aviation issue to also announce that its new 5G Ultra Wideband network will be available to 100 million more people this month in over 1,700 cities across the U.S.

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