The impending national rollout of 5G on the C-Band — a radio frequency band between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz — has turned into a turf war between two powerful government agencies. Both the FCC, which governs spectrum, and the FAA, which governs aviation safety, say 5G and safe air travel can can co-exist, but at the moment they are at loggerheads in determining exactly how.
Last night, AT&T and Verizon agreed to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s request for a voluntary two-week delay of their 5G rollouts on C-Band frequencies. The two telecoms giants have collectively spent $67 billion on C-Band licenses and had planned to launch new 5G service tomorrow in many U.S. cities.
But in an end-of-year move on December 30, Airlines for America, a trade group representing the airline industry, filed an emergency petition asking regulators to temporarily block the deployment. The petition cited an airworthiness directive issued earlier this month by the FAA, which deemed it unsafe to rely on cockpit safety systems in the presence of 5G transmitters in the C-Band. The agency warned that the 5G rollout would cause major inconveniences for the flying public. “These limitations could prevent dispatch of flights to certain locations with low visibility, and could also result in flight diversions,” according to the document.