The Federal Aviation Administration has reached an agreement with Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. that will allow the wireless carriers to expand their 5G service around some airports while continuing to temporarily hold off elsewhere as companies retrofit their aircraft with equipment less susceptible to 5G interference.
The FAA said Friday that it is working with the carriers and with aircraft operators on a “phased approach” to 5G launches around airports. As part of the plan, those operating regional aircraft that are most vulnerable to 5G interference will be required to retrofit the planes with radio frequency filters by the end of the year.
Additionally, the FAA and wireless carriers have together identified certain airports near which the telecommunications companies will be able to enhance their service with the least risk of causing disruptions to flight schedules.
“We believe we have identified a path that will continue to enable aviation and 5G C-band wireless to safely co-exist,” Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in the release.
The announcement from the FAA comes months after Verizon
agreed temporarily to limit their 5G expansion plans due to concerns about how the new wireless standard could interfere with certain planes and potentially lead to delays or cancellations.
The latest release noted that AT&T and Verizon had previously agreed to “keep mitigations in place” until July 5 and have since offered “to continue with some level of voluntary mitigations for another year.” At that point, airlines and other operators are expected largely to be done with the work required to enhance their aircraft with the appropriate equipment, and accordingly the wireless companies anticipate that they will then be able “to operate their networks in urban areas with minimal restrictions,” per the release.
“Today’s announcement identifies a path forward that will enable Verizon to make full use of our C-Band spectrum for 5G around airports on an accelerated and defined schedule,” Verizon Chief Administrative Officer Craig Silliman said in a Friday press release. “Under this agreement reached with the FAA, we will lift the voluntary limitations on our 5G network deployment around airports in a staged approach over the coming months meaning even more consumers and businesses will benefit from the tremendous capabilities of 5G technology.”
An AT&T spokesperson said the company is moving toward seeing all voluntary restrictions lapse by the summer of 2023.
“Through close coordination with the FAA over the last several months, we have developed a more tailored approach to controlling signal strength around runways that allows us to activate more towers and increase signal strength,” the AT&T spokesperson said. “Though our FCC licenses allow us to fully deploy much-needed C-Band spectrum right now, we have chosen in good faith to implement these more tailored precautionary measures so that airlines have additional time to retrofit equipment.”
Verizon shares were near flat in Friday afternoon trading, while AT&T’s stock was ahead by 1.3%.