FAA says Verizon and AT&T can continue rolling out C-Band 5G near airports

FAA says Verizon and AT&T can continue rolling out C-Band 5G near airports

Verizon and AT&T started rolling out 5G on C-Band spectrum in the United States last week, finally giving both carriers an answer to the success of T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G. The rollout was delayed due to concerns from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and some airlines, because it could interfere with equipment in some airplanes and control towers, which briefly caused travel disruptions. Now the FAA, Verizon, and AT&T have apparently worked out their issues.

The FAA announced on Friday (via Engadget), “the FAA, Verizon, and AT&T have agreed on steps that will enable more aircraft to safely use key airports while also enabling more towers to deploy 5G service. The FAA appreciates the strong communication and collaborative approach with wireless companies, which have provided more precise data about the exact location of wireless transmitters and supported more thorough analysis of how 5G C-band signals interact with sensitive aircraft instruments. The FAA used this data to determine that it is possible to safely and more precisely map the size and shape of the areas around airports where 5G signals are mitigated, shrinking the areas where wireless operators are deferring their antenna activations.”

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This should mean that Verizon and AT&T’s C-Band 5G networks will start to show up closer (or directly in) more major airports in the United States. The news also comes one day after the FAA verified the altimeter aboard the Boeing 737 Max is safe to fly near C-Band 5G towers, even at airports that the FAA has not specifically designated as safe from interference.

Some airlines and the FAA were initially concerned that C-Band 5G would interfere with some radio-powered altimeters, which are used by planes to determine how close they are to the ground during takeoff and landing. The FAA quickly verified that most Boeing and Airbus planes were not affected, but as of Friday, the agency still blocks Boeing 747-8, 747-8F and 777 airplanes from landing at airports that have not been specifically marked as safe (if the FAA says an airport is safe, nothing applies). According to the FAA, that includes around 336 airplanes in the United States and 1,714 worldwide.

Even though there are only three (known) planes are apparently affected by C-Band 5G, they are some of the most important models in the airline industry. The Boeing 777 has been a popular wide-body plane for years, making up a significant percentage of the fleet for Emirates, United Airlines, Air France, Cathaway Pacific, American Airlines, and other companies.

Featured image: Boeing 777 (Credit: Emirates)

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Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer. Check out what he's up to at corbin.io.

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