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AT&T, Verizon Pause 5G Expansion Amid FAA Safety Concerns

On Dec. 5, AT&T and Verizon had planned to roll out new 5G networks using the C-band spectrum. But after hearing concerns raised by the Federal Aviation Administration, the two companies have pushed the date back.

AT&T and Verizon will wait until at least Jan. 5 before they introduce new 5G networks due to aircraft safety concerns cited by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Originally reported by The Wall Street Journal, the decision from the two telecommunications giants came after the Tuesday release of an FAA Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin. This document contained recommendations to the aviation community about the risks associated with AT&T and Verizon's planned 5G expansions via C-band spectrum on Dec. 5.

"The bulletin urges stakeholders to be aware of the potential degradation to the capabilities of safety systems and other equipment that depend on radio altimeters, particularly during low-altitude operations," explained an FAA statement obtained by Fierce Wireless. "Operators should be prepared for the possibility that interference from 5G transmitters and other technology could cause certain safety equipment to malfunction, requiring them to take mitigating action that could affect flight operations."

Yesterday AT&T indicated it's committed to talking to both FAA and the Federal Communications Commission about potential interference in the C-band spectrum.

"It is critical that these discussions be informed by the science and the data,” the company told The Verge. “That is the only path to enabling experts and engineers to assess whether any legitimate co-existence issues exist.”

According to Reuters, the White House National Economic Council is also involved in federal conversations about the issue.

In a Reuters report last week, CTIA, a trade group that represents wireless providers, said 5G networks using C-band spectrum in other countries haven't interfered with aircraft operations. However, this point was acknowledged in the FAA bulletin, which still urges caution.

This news comes around the same time that commentary begins to boil about the upcoming elimination of 3G networks, which will render certain older phones owned by millions of Americans useless.