Jan 18, 2022 - Technology

AT&T, Verizon extend 5G delay over airline panic

Illustration of a pattern of airplanes.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

AT&T and Verizon said Tuesday they would delay lighting up its 5G signals near a limited number of airports after renewed opposition from the aviation industry over concerns about signal interference.

Why it matters: The CEOs of leading airlines warned of catastrophic disruption to flights if AT&T and Verizon deployed 5G as planned this week.

Driving the news: In a statement, an AT&T spokesperson said the company would launch its 5G service as planned except near a "limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the (Federal Aviation Administration)."

  • "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," the spokesperson said.
  • Verizon said they "have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports."
  • "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries," the company said in a statement.

What they're saying: In a statement Tuesday, President Biden said the carriers' decision will "avoid potentially devastating disruptions" to travel.

  • "This agreement protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans. "

Catch up quick: The FAA has warned previously that potential interference from 5G signals, especially in bad weather, could cause flight cancellations or force planes to divert to different airports.

  • Verizon and AT&T have previously committed to creating buffer zones around certain airports for six months to reduce interference risks, along with other safety measures.
  • With those commitments, the companies planned to launch 5G service Wednesday, but faced ongoing concerns from the airlines.

Editor's note: This story has been update with a statement from Verizon that they would delay 5G deployment near airports and a statement from President Biden.

Go deeper