Airlines, Wireless Carriers Agree On Temporary 5G Ceasefire

 - January 4, 2022, 9:53 AM

U.S. airline officials and wireless carriers AT&T and Verizon last night reached a tentative deal to delay deployment of 5G C-band for another two weeks, until January 19, subject to FCC and FAA approval. The agreement is characterized as a “framework” to allow both sides of the boiling controversy to turn down the temperature and further study and reach agreement on mitigation strategies designed to prevent C-band interference on aircraft radio altimeters at the U.S.’s largest commercial airports.

The apparent deal came less than 48 hours before the two wireless carriers were scheduled to switch on their 5G C-band transmitters and mere hours before the airlines’ interests were prepared to file suit in the U.S. Court of Appeals. That legal action was expected to request the court to force the FCC to consider an aviation industry petition filed December 30 that requested further delay and study of the matter. Through Monday, the FCC had declined to acknowledge or respond to that petition. Senior airline officials made clear that the industry retained its legal options should the parties fail to reach a more permanent agreement in the coming weeks.  

These officials hinted that recent talks between the parties were focused on implementation of some form of the “French model” of 5G C-band mitigation. That model provides for the tenfold reduction of C-band signals on commercial runways or during the last mile of approach or first mile of takeoff. That suggestion had previously been rejected as “inadequate” to ensure safety by both the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and Airlines for America (A4A). But in a letter to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch, sent on New Year’s Eve, Verizon accused AIA of using safety concerns over 5G C-band to hold deployment of the technology “hostage” to force the wireless industry to cover the costs of “upgrading any obsolete altimeters that, in the view of some aviation interests, do an abnormally poor job of filtering signals in bands far removed from the 4.2 to 4.4 GHz aeronautical altimetry band.” 

While agreeing about the need for lower-power signal approach boxes around airports, the wireless carriers don't see eye-to-eye with the industry when it comes to helicopters. In fact, the carriers said there is only a need for lower-power signals directly above public heliports because “helicopters take off vertically and there is no need to account for an approach box around a helipad.”