AT&T and Verizon to lower 5G signals to reduce potential interference with aircraft

A 5G graphic on a grey background

Mid-band spectrum rollout of 5G is considered the gold mine for carriers due to its increased speed and broader range. As carriers planned the rollout of 5G infrastructure, the FAA issued a warning in November of potential interference of aircraft from 5G cell towers transmitting signals in the mid-band spectrum. Following this warning, AT&T and Verizon held the rolling out of 5G service on the mid-band range until 5th January 2022.

While more data is collected to assess the risk, AT&T and Verizon have proactively taken steps to reduce the power on 5G cell towers in the C-band spectrum, to reduce the interface with aircraft equipment, if any. This step by AT&T is currently for six months and will also include applying stringent limits near airports and helipads.

The FCC, in its response, said

"These technical mitigations represent one of the most comprehensive efforts in the world to safeguard aviation technologies,"

Carriers spent more than $80 billion on purchasing 5G wireless spectrum. Still, disputes between FAA and carriers brought to light the need for further risk assessment before the full-fledged 5G rollout. The Telecom industry has argued on lack of evidence on interference and that deployment of 5G is completed in nearly 40 countries with no reported issues.

With these proactive steps by AT&T and Verizon and ongoing risk assessment by FAA, there seem to be steps taken on both sides to resolve the concerns.

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