Verizon, AT&T Reject U.S. Government Request to Halt 5G Rollout Over Aviation Concerns

Network providers Verizon and AT&T have rejected a U.S. government request to halt the launch of new 5G wireless technology service. Rollout of the next-generation 5G technology is scheduled to take place Wednesday, but airlines had asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to push back the launch over concerns that it could interfere with the electronics used by airplane pilots.

The CEOs of the two companies sent a joint letter on Sunday to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Steve Dickson, the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In the letter, Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg and AT&T CEO John Stankey countered the issues voiced by U.S. airlines regarding the potential impacts of the 5G network on aviation.

Telecom industry groups have said that 5G technology in C-Band frequencies has already been rolled out across the world, but no reported aviation incidents have emerged, CNN reported.

"The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France," the companies wrote in the joint letter. "If U.S. airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States."

But they also wrote that they would abide by some temporary measures over the next six months that would restrict the 5G service near some airport runways.

5G Aviation Concerns
Network providers Verizon and AT&T have rejected a U.S. government request to halt the launch of new 5G wireless technology services after airlines had asked the Federal Communications Commission to push back the launch over concerns that it could interfere with electronics used by airplane pilots. Above, an airplane departs Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on December 19, 2021. Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

Airlines for America, a trade group for large U.S. passenger and cargo carriers, said in an emergency filing that the FCC has failed to adequately consider the harm that 5G service could do to the industry. The group wants more time for the FCC and the FAA, which regulates airlines, to resolve issues around aviation safety. Those issues are related to 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.

Siding in part with airlines, Buttigieg and Dickson wrote late Friday to the CEOs of AT&T and Verizon to propose a delay in activating 5G C-Band service near an undetermined number of "priority airports" while the FAA studies the potential for interference with aircraft operations.

AT&T and Verizon previously agreed to a one-month delay in 5G, which provides faster speeds when mobile devices connect to their networks and allows users to connect many devices to the internet without slowing it down. But the telecommunications executives said Sunday that further delays requested by the government would harm their customers.

"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 industry," the executives wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Verizon, AT&T Reject Government Request
Network providers Verizon and AT&T have rejected a U.S. government request to halt the rollout of new 5G wireless technology service. Above, a logo sits illuminated outside the Verizon booth on the second day of the GSMA Mobile World Congress 2019 on February 26, 2019, in Barcelona, Spain. David Ramos/Getty Images