AT&T, Verizon delay 5G debut near some airports following warning of "catastrophic disruption" to travel

Posted at 1:34 PM, Jan 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-18 15:43:24-05

Verizon and AT&T are delaying the launch of their 5G technology near some airports just a day before their planned rollouts, the carriers confirmed to CBS News on Tuesday.

The delays come after chief executives of America's largest airlines warned of "catastrophic disruption" to travel and shipping operations should the technology not be limited around U.S. airports.

"At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment," an AT&T spokesperson said in a statement.

Verizon said the technology, which is intended to increase speed, reliability and power for more than 90 million Americans, will be limited around airports.

It is the third time Verizon and AT&T have delayed the launch of the new C-Band 5G service due to warnings from airlines and aircraft manufacturers that it may disrupt altitude measurement devices used by planes.

A Monday letter sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other U.S. government officials warned of "economic calamity" and said "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt," should the 5G launch be implemented.

"We are writing with urgency to request that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate two miles of airport runways as defined by the FAA on January 19, 2022," airline CEOs said in the letter.

AT&T said it is frustrated by the FAA's "inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner."

It said the aviation industry and the FAA "have not utilized the two years they've had to responsibly plan for this deployment."