US 5G C-Band rollout grounded after FAA delays
Major international airlines have been forced to delay or cancel flights to the United States caused by a planned 5G wireless rollout that has caused safety concerns, even though two wireless carriers said that they will delay parts of the deployment.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was already hesitant on C-Band deployments as it warned that 5G could potentially affect height readings which play a key role in bad-weather landings on some jets, the Boeing 777 in particular.
Although AT&T and Verizon announced that they were going to pause the 5G rollout close to airports, many airlines cancelled flights or switched aircraft models nevertheless.
Emirates, the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 777, said earlier that it would suspend flights to nine US destinations as of January 19th, the date the deployment of 5G wireless services was planned to take place.
Other airlines cancelling, delaying or changing their flights include ANA, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, Korean Air Lines and Cathay Pacific Airways.
The airlines did so after a notice from Boeing said that 5G signals may interfere with the radio altimeter on the 777, leading to restrictions.
The issues stem from the deployment of C-Band 5G technology. The two carriers together spent more than $68 billion on C-band spectrum licenses alone in early 2021, and initially delayed deployments until January 5 due to a request from the FAA. This was then delayed until January 19 following a request from the US transport secretary.
AT&T in a statement Tuesday said that it’s frustrated with the FAA, as aviation interests had time to prepare for but will still voluntarily wait to turn on certain 5G towers around 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, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment,” an AT&T spokesperson said.
“We are 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. We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers.”
It is worth noting that C-Band technology has been deployed in almost 40 other countries with no signs of issues with aircraft interference. Before auctioning C-band spectrum, the FCC held a lengthy proceeding on clearing the spectrum for 5G.
However, the Wall Street Journal reported experts suggest delay to 5G implementation goes far beyond aviation interference – the cost and complexity of bringing out new 5G infrastructure are holding companies back, and there currently is not much demand in the US for 5G services.
“There is a lengthy time frame between making the described airwaves available at auction, conducting the auctions, then actually deploying the infrastructure to support these airwaves,” Bill Menezes, a director at Gartner Inc, told the WSJ.
“What’s more, apps that might generate demand drive 5G adoption are still in relatively early stages of deployment.”
James Ratcliffe, an analyst at Wall Street research firm Evercore ISI said: “The first applications poised to make use of 5G’s capabilities – faster speeds, low latency, and more dynamic capacity allocation – are likely to be on the enterprise side, in areas like factory automation and facility management.”
However, 5G network deployment is running ahead of application deployment. “I can’t point to any companies that have big product launches ready to go that will be delayed,” he said.
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