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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The ongoing dispute between wireless carriers and the aviation industry heated up over the holidays, with AT&T and Verizon on Sunday refusing a request from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to delay their planned 5G deployments.

Why it matters: The Federal Aviation Administration has warned that potential interference from 5G signals, especially in bad weather, could cause flight cancellations or force planes to divert to different airports.

Instead of further postponing their 5G plans for a second time, the wireless providers offered to beef up protections around airports to address concerns about potential signal interference with aircraft equipment.

Catch up quick: Wireless carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, spent $80 billion in a federal auction to buy airwave licenses in the so-called C-band swath of spectrum, and planned to begin deployment Dec. 5.

  • But after the FAA and airlines raised concerns about the potential for 5G signals to interfere with radio altimeters that help planes land, the carriers agreed to delay deployment until Jan. 5.
  • A New Year's Eve missive from Buttigieg and FAA administrator Steve Dickson asked AT&T and Verizon for an additional two-week delay and a buffer zone around priority airports.

What's happening: The companies instead said they would not operate 5G base stations along runways for 6 months while the FAA studies the issue. Those restrictions resemble rules imposed in France.

What they're saying: "As you know, U.S. aircraft currently fly in and out of France every day with thousands of U.S. passengers and with the full approval of the FAA," AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg wrote in the letter.

  • "As a result, France provides a real-world example of an operating environment where 5G and aviation safety already co-exist," they wrote. "The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France."

Between the lines: France and the U.S. have different rules for 5G operations, but the companies say their proposal accounts for those differences.

The other side: An FAA spokesperson said Sunday the agency is reviewing the letter from the carriers, and "U.S. aviation safety standards will guide our next actions."

Go deeper

Jan 4, 2022 - Podcasts

The latest on the Jan. 6 investigations

It's been almost a year since supporters of former President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol and tried to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Since then, federal prosecutors have charged more than 700 people in connection with the deadly insurrection. We catch you up quick on where things stand now with both the congressional and federal investigations.

  • Plus, wireless providers vs. the FAA over 5G.
  • And, Florida’s record-breaking COVID case count.

Guests: Axios' Andrew Solender, Selene San Felice and Margaret Harding McGill.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Julia Redpath, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Sabeena Singhani and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at podcasts@axios.com. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

Go deeper:

Updated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker
Updated 1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Janet Yellen co-opts Reaganomics phrase for new Davos speech

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at a speech this week. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The U.S. needs to focus on increasing its productive potential, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told world leaders Friday, calling for what she terms "modern supply side economics."

Why it matters: She co-opted a phrase traditionally used by political conservatives to describe low-tax and deregulatory policies — and framed the Biden administration's initiatives as the best path forward to achieve greater national prosperity.

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