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US airline CEOs warn of ‘catastrophic’ disruption to 5G rollout  

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US airline CEOs warn of ‘catastrophic’ disruption to 5G rollout

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The aviation industry faces “catastrophic” disruption with the rollout of a new 5G service this week, airline executives have warned.

In a letter sent Monday to U.S. transportation and economic officials and obtained by NBC News, the CEOs of major carriers said the launch could ground flights and leave “tens of thousands of Americans “stranded abroad.

The warning came ahead of the rollout on Wednesday of the new C-Band 5G service from telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon. It also comes as airlines continue to deal with the fallout from widespread flight cancellations fueled by the spread of the omicron variant of Covid-19 and a series of winter storms that have caused travel chaos across the United States. .

Airlines have warned that 5G signals risk interfering with safety equipment that pilots rely on to take off and land in bad weather.

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of travelers and shippers will be essentially grounded,” they said in the letter, which was signed by the chief executives of American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue, as well as executives from UPS and FedEx.

“Immediate response is required to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, the supply chain and the delivery of needed medical supplies,” the letter said.

Without permission, he added, “To be frank, the nation’s trade is going to come to a standstill.”

The letter was addressed to National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Stephen Dickson and Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel.

Fifth-generation wireless technology, widely known as 5G, promises to deliver blazing-fast internet speeds, extra bandwidth and increased connectivity, with telecom companies around the world racing to roll out the service.

AT&T and Verizon have previously insisted that 5G networks work safely without interference in nearly 40 countries and would do the same in the United States. They declined to comment further on Monday.

The problem is that the spectrum of waves used by 5G technology could conflict with the signals used by radio altimeters, measuring instruments that help pilots determine the distance between the ground and the bottom of an aircraft when flying. low visibility operations.

The two companies have agreed to maintain buffer zones around at least 50 airports to reduce the possibility of interference. And Wednesday’s rollout of the new 5G service comes after an already two-week delay requested by the Department of Transport in response to concerns from aviation executives.

AT&T and Verizon initially rejected the government’s request in early January, but backtracked and agreed to the two-week deadline.

At the time, Buttigieg said talks between the FAA, major airlines and cellphone carriers were “healthy.”

US airline CEOs warn of ‘catastrophic’ disruption to 5G rollout  

 | News Today

Airline executives said they wanted the service to be rolled out “anywhere in the country except within about 2 miles of runways at affected airports”.

“This will allow 5G to be deployed while avoiding adverse impacts on the aviation industry, the traveling public, the supply chain, vaccine distribution, our workforce and the wider economy. “, they said, suggesting that the deployment of 5G could also have a potential impact on the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

As 5G service goes live on Wednesday, the FAA said it will take the precaution of banning pilots from using altimeters when landing at more than 80 airports near 5G sites. Major airports in Dallas, New York, Chicago and Seattle are among those expected to be affected.

The FAA said it would “continue to ensure the safety of the traveling public as cellphone companies roll out 5G.”

“The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and mobile phone companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations,” it added in a statement.

On Sunday, it said it cleared about 45% of the U.S. commercial fleet to “perform low-visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band will be deployed” starting Wednesday.

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But in a statement shared with NBC News, United Airlines said the federal government’s current 5G rollout plan “would have a devastating impact on aviation.”

The airline said the resulting chaos could negatively impact up to 1.25 million United passengers.

He said airlines want the US government to develop policies to ensure 5G technology can be deployed safely.

We won’t compromise on safety — period. But governments in other countries have successfully crafted policies to ensure the safe deployment of 5G technology and we simply ask the US government to do the same,” the airline said.

“We implore the Biden administration to act quickly and apply the same common sense solutions here that have clearly worked so well around the world,” he said.


Tom Costello, Jay Blackman, Jay Varela, Jo Ling Kent and Ahiza Garcia-Hodges contributed.

US airline CEOs warn of ‘catastrophic’ disruption to 5G rollout

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