Verizon and AT&T agreed late Monday to delay the 5G C-Band rollout.
In a statement obtained by The New York Times (opens in new tab), Verizon and AT&T both agreed to the additional delay of C-Band 5G services.
[Our original story, where both companies said, "Nah," is below]
Verizon and AT&T are moving forward with their $70 billion dollar investment in the 5G C-band spectrum and their plans to launch the service on January 5.
In a strongly-worded letter from AT&T CEO John T. Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson (obtained by The New York Times), the pair of carrier CEOs rejected the DOT and FAA's request to pause the rollout by another two weeks.
The DOT and FAA made a last-minute request on December 31, citing concerns over the 5G C-Band spectrum's potential to interfere with U.S. flight operations, specifically airplane altimeters.
Vestberg and Stankey contest those concerns in their letter, noting that "radio altimeters do not operate on, or anywhere near, the C - Band frequencies. Rather, they operate in a frequency band (4.2-4.4 GHz) that is separated by at least 400 megahertz from the C -Band frequencies (3.7-3.8 MHz) that AT& T and Verizon will begin using in 2022..."
5G vs. the airlines: a brief timeline
Jan. 28: FAA greenlights 5G at the airport The FAA's ongoing battle with Verizon and AT&T over ultra-fast 5G C-band deployment around airports is finally ending: On Friday, the FAA announced an agreement on new steps that allow yet more 5G towers to operate safely around key airports.
Jan. 13: FAA reveals exactly what 5G will do to airplanes The FAA is providing the airline industry with ‘Notice to Air’ missions that detail how 5G networks could potentially affect aircraft equipment, notably altimeters that rely on frequencies located between 4.2 and 4.4GHz.
Jan. 10: 50 airports get 5G "buffer zones" Airports in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and more are covered by the new restrictions, with some airports excluded because they do not permit low-visibility landings or because 5G towers are not close enough to cause concern.
Read more ▼
Jan. 04: So much for 5G at the airport Verizon and AT&T agreed late Monday to delay the 5G C-Band rollout, after earlier in the day announcing plans to move forward with their $70 billion dollar investment in the 5G C-band spectrum and their plans to launch the service on January 5.
Jan. 03, 2022: The DoT treads into the battle A letter by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson to AT&T and Verizon acknowledges the investment in 5G-C made by both companies but cautions that "the economic stakes for the aviation industry and the disruptions the traveling public would face ... are significant."
Dec. 08: FAA sets new 5G flight restrictions The FAA has issued a warning that interference from C-band 5G could result in flight diversions as the planned use of this new 5G wireless spectrum by mobile carriers poses an air safety risk.
Nov. 5: Pilots warned about 5G interference -- and carries caved Verizon and AT&T agreed to temporarily postpone their rollout of C-band 5G in order to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to address concerns surrounding potential interference with key cockpit safety devices.
"Unprecedented and unwarranted"
The executives sound frustrated at the late notice and the alleged inaction by the FAA to press airlines on upgrading their altimeters to avoid spectrums "far removed from the 4.2-4.4 GHz altimeter band."
At its core, though, the letter is a rejection of the DOT and FAA's proposal:
"Agreeing to your proposal would not only be an unprecedented and unwarranted circumvention of the due process and checks and balances carefully crafted in the structure of our democracy, but an irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks that are every bit as essential to our country's economic vitality, public safety and national interests as the airline."
Verizon and AT&T are not, however, backing away from the mitigation measures it agreed to last November, which includes 5G C-Band exclusion zones, including those around airport runways.
We suspect that the DOT's Buttigieg and FAA's Dickson are crafting a response letter as you read this.
It's unlikely that a response will arrive in time to get in front of AT&T and Verizon's rollout efforts. While the concerns about 5G C-Band flight operations interference will likely persist into the launch, there's no concrete proof that any 5G bands are impacting airplane and airport operations technology.
For consumers, the benefits of 5G feel more like unrealized promises. We now carry 5G phones but only rarely experience the life-altering speeds that were promised in the early days of the next-gen mobile band's introduction.
5G C-Band, though, offers a fresh opportunity to deliver on some of these promises. Using a mid-range band once set aside for satellites, GPS and Wi-Fi, it works with fewer towers and a more direct connection to 5G devices. This might mean better reliability and, more importantly, higher speeds (more like the ones we were promised).
Of course, you still need 5G C-Band coverage in your area to experience this level of connectivity.
- Find the best 5G phones around right now