FAA Clears Way for Verizon, AT&T to Turn on More 5G Cell Towers

Concern about new high-speed wireless service interfering with airplanes appears to be easing

A cellular tower stands as a United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner airplane lands at Los Angeles International Airport
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Federal safety regulators say they have cleared the way for Verizon and AT&T to power up more towers for new 5G service without causing radio interference with airplanes.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Friday that it took the steps after receiving details from the telecommunications companies about the location of wireless transmitters.

The FAA said the data helped it to better map areas around airports where new new high-speed 5G service won’t hinder the ability of planes to land during poor weather.

Aviation groups and the FAA had warned that the companies’ 5G service, which uses part of the radio spectrum called C-Band, was too close to the spectrum range used by instruments that measure the height of planes above the ground — crucial information for landing in low visibility.

Verizon and AT&T disputed the FAA’s warning, but they twice agreed to delay launching new 5G and temporarily delayed it around many airports even as they began offering the service in many U.S. cities on Jan. 19.

Since the dispute came to a head, the FAA has cleared most types of airline planes to operate around 5G signals, saying that their height-measuring devices, called radio altimeters, are safe from radio interference.

Airlines have known about the impending rollout of 5G cell signal for years now - and had time to prepare for how it would potentially impact planes' instruments, said Hugh Odom, a former attorney for AT&T. Airlines have warned they may cancel or change some flights, while cell companies have agreed to limit 5G signal around some airports ."The aviation industry has kind of dropped the ball," Odom said.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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