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5G rollout modified again after 10 major airlines issue flight disruption warning

The news: AT&T and Verizon’s 5G deployment has been met with strong pushback from the aviation industry, with 10 US airlines warning of massive flight disruptions, potentially stranding tens of thousands of Americans overseas.

What this means: Airlines for America, a trade association representing major US airlines, asked White House National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and aviation regulators to put a stop to 5G C-band expansion near airports, per Insider.

  • CEOs of 10 major carriers, including American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, FedEx Express, United Airlines, and UPS Airlines, claim the disruptions will cause carriers “to struggle getting people, shipments, and planes where they need to be.”
  • Airlines requested that 5G not be implemented within 2 miles of key US airport runways and called for “immediate intervention” to block AT&T and Verizon’s 5G C-band rollout slated for today.
  • AT&T and Verizon said yesterday afternoon that they would delay their 5G deployment near airports. "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," AT&T said in a statement.

The bigger picture: AT&T and Verizon’s 5G rollout is becoming more contentious, with airlines and logistics companies warning of “catastrophic disruptions” just as the aviation industry is recovering from the effects of the pandemic. 

  • Boeing told Insider the transportation industry is "preparing for some service disruption."
  • Several airlines indicated on Monday that they were considering canceling international flights scheduled to arrive in the US on Wednesday.
  • “The administration is actively engaged with the FAA, FCC, wireless carriers, airlines, and aviation equipment manufacturers to reach a solution that maximizes 5G deployment while protecting air safety,” said a White House official.

What’s the catch? This conflict between US airlines and carriers is shaping up to be a struggle between two industries with the government and regulation agencies caught squarely in the middle. 

  • AT&T and Verizon’s desire to roll out 5G could be delayed indefinitely, at least within the proximity of airport city centers. 
  • Stranding thousands of passengers and affecting supply chains far outweigh the incremental speed and connectivity benefits of 5G C-band expansion.