AT&T, Verizon Delay Their 5G Rollout Plans Over Fears of Airline Interference

AT&T, Verizon Delay Their 5G Rollout Plans Over Fears of Airline Interference
Photo: Arne Dedert, Getty Images

On Sunday, AT&T and Verizon heartily rejected requests from the U.S. government to delay the rollout of their 5G wireless services on the grounds that the tech could interfere with nearby airliners. Now, just a day later, it looks like the telco giants are reassessing the issue; The Washington Post reports the two companies are indeed delaying their deployments for an additional two weeks at transportation authorities’ request.

“We have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay,” an AT&T spokesperson told The Post, adding that the company “know[s] aviation safety and 5G can co-exist,” and is “confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.” A Verizon spokesperson also confirmed to the outlet that it, too, had agreed to a two-week delay. AT&T and Verizon did not immediately reply to Gizmodo’s request for comment. 

It’s unclear whether the two-week pause will be enough to allay tensions among the transportation industry. Both AT&T and Verizon had already put their 5G plans on the back burner this past November after the Federal Aviation Administration voiced concerns that the signals from 5G cellular antennas might throw off readings that pilots use while flying — particularly the signals used to gauge how far an aircraft is from the ground. This led to critics among the airline industry warning that the U.S. would be hit by mass flight delays and cancellations if the telecom companies got their way.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sided with the airlines, as did FAA head Steve Dickson, who pleaded with AT&T and Verizon to delay their 5G rollouts. Then Airlines for America, a trade group representing travel giants like Delta, American Airlines, and more got involved, threatening potential legal action against the Federal Communications Commission unless it, too, pushed for a delay. Previously, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel had been pretty neutral on 5G deployments, aside from vaguely warning that the agency “need[s] to avoid unnecessary delays” in getting the technology approved.

Now, it looks like we’re going to be seeing at least another two weeks of delays before we can hook up 5G networks nationwide.