Verizon, AT&T deny regulators’ request to delay new 5G services
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Federal transportation officials want AT&T and Verizon to postpone their planned release of extended 5G wireless services this week, citing fears of signal interference that they believe could pose flight safety risks. The wireless companies responded on Sunday and said no.
In a letter sent Friday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson called on the two wireless companies to delay the planned introduction of the new 5G technology on Wednesday for a “short period” of time. ‘to two weeks.
Failure to reach an agreement “will force the US aviation industry to take steps to protect the safety of the traveling public,” officials wrote. “These measures will cause widespread and unacceptable disruption as planes divert to other cities or flights are canceled, causing ripple effects throughout the US air transport system.”
On Sunday, AT&T and Verizon announced plans to continue their 5G expansion. The aviation industry has had nearly two years to upgrade any equipment that might be affected by the new use of spectrum, the companies said.
“Our two companies are deeply committed to public and national safety, and fortunately, the question of whether 5G operations can safely coexist with aviation has long been settled,” John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, and Hans Vestberg, CEO of Verizon. , wrote in a joint letter.
The fight could add to the turmoil that plagued airlines and their passengers over the past week, as carriers battled harsh winter weather and a wave of coronavirus that downsized during a peak period for airlines. holidays.
Mobile carriers previously agreed to a 30-day deadline for the expected debut of the 5G extension in December. Federal officials have said they want the additional delay to give them time to identify critical airports in need of a buffer zone to temporarily protect their operations.
Verizon and AT&T offered an alternative compromise: For six months, until early July, the companies said they would comply with a version of the restrictions currently in place in France, which would severely limit the offending signals around runways. busy airport.
The expansion of 5G is a top priority for wireless operators. Verizon and A&T collectively paid more than $ 70 billion last year in a government auction for access to so-called C-band spectrum, which will give their networks greater geographic reach and signals. faster. Operators have yet to say which areas will benefit from the new services this week, or how many customers they will cover, but Verizon said last month it expected its new spectrum to reach 100 million customers. here March. AT&T has announced plans to reach at least 70 million people in the United States by the end of the year.
The showdown is also to some extent a fight between government regulators. The Federal Communications Commission has urged wireless carriers to expand their 5G networks, while the Federal Aviation Administration has sought to slow things down in response to concerns from airlines.
On Saturday, Brendan Carr, a Republican FCC commissioner appointed by President Donald J. Trump, tweeted about a letter he sent that day to Mr Buttigieg criticizing the agency’s objections.
“Your claim for delay is not supported by science, engineering or the law,” Carr wrote.
An FAA spokeswoman said in a written statement that the agency was reviewing the letter from mobile operators.
“US aviation safety standards will guide our next actions,” she said.
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