5G in the United States: airlines and telecoms find a new compromise

The United States Aviation Authority (FAA) announced on Friday June 17 that mobile operators AT&T and Verizon and airlines had reached an agreement for the gradual deployment of additional 5G antennas around airports. “We believe we have identified a path that will continue to allow aviation and 5G wireless to safely co-exist,” Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement.

Friction between the two sectors came to light at the end of 2021, when the FAA was concerned about possible interference between the altimeters of certain aircraft, important instruments for landing in certain weather conditions, and the deployment of 5G frequencies for which AT&T and Verizon shelled out tens of billions of dollars.

A further twelve months

AT&T and Verizon had finally agreed in January to postpone, for six months, the activation of mobile phone antennas around certain airport runways. As the end of this voluntary moratorium approaches, companies have agreed to a “gradual” approach. The regional companies most exposed to possible interference have agreed to modify their radio altimeters by the end of the year. Telephone operators have at the same time agreed to further delay the activation of 5G antennas located around the airports most likely to be affected for another twelve months, with a gradual lifting of restrictions.

“Through close coordination with the FAA over the past few months, we have developed a more bespoke approach to controlling signal strength around runways, allowing us to activate more antennas and increase signal strength,” an AT&T spokesperson said. The company chose to act “in good faith” by agreeing not to deploy all of its antennas right away “in order to give airlines more time to modify their equipment”, he added.

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