AT&T, Verizon CEOs reject US request for 5G deployment delay


US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson had asked AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for a commercial deployment delay of no more than two weeks.

The wireless companies in a joint letter on Sunday said they would not deploy 5G around airports for six months, but rejected any broader limitation on using the C-Band high frequency spectrum on which 5G networks run. They said the Transportation Department proposal would be “an irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks.”

“We are reviewing the latest letter from the wireless companies on how to mitigate interference from 5G C-band transmissions. US aviation safety standards will guide our next actions,” the FAA said in a statement to CNN Business.

The aviation industry and FAA have raised concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.

The exclusion zone AT&T and Verizon propose is currently in use in France, the carriers said, “with slight adaption” reflecting “modest technical differences in how C-band is being deployed.”

“The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France,” the CEOs wrote. “If US 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.”

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Officials said the exclusion zones proposed by the wireless carriers is not as large as what has been sought by the FAA.

The FAA and Buttigieg on Friday proposed identifying priority airports “where a buffer zone would permit aviation operations to continue safely while the FAA completes its assessments of the interference potential.”

The government would work to identify “mitigations for all priority airports” to enable most “large commercial aircraft to operate safely in all conditions.” Airline unions have expressed support for Buttigieg’s proposal.

The wireless carriers, which won the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion government auction, previously agreed to precautionary measures for six months to limit interference.

Trade group Airlines for America, representing American Airlines, Fedex Corp and other carriers, on Thursday asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to halt the deployment around many airports, warning that thousands of flights could be disrupted daily.

The airline group has said it may go to court on Monday if the FCC does not act.

Wireless industry group CTIA said 5G is safe and the spectrum is being used in about 40 other countries.

CNN’s Ramishah Maruf contributed to this report.

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