President Biden on Tuesday hailed the decisions by AT&T and Verizon to postpone their planned rollouts of 5G information networks near airports over fears of widespread disruption to air travel and shipping.
Calling the delay “a significant step in the right direction,” Mr. Biden said he was grateful to the telecom carriers for acting in good faith with the government.
“This agreement ensures that there will be no disruptions to air operations over the next two weeks and puts us on track to substantially reduce disruptions to air operations when AT&T and Verizon launch 5G on January 19,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.
The president said officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Communications Commission had been meeting with experts from the wireless and aviation industries to discuss a solution. Those talks resulted in AT&T and Verizon agreeing to delay their 5G plans, Mr. Biden said.
Both carriers said late Monday they will hold off activating their “fifth-generation” 5G services — which could potentially bring massive increases in data and communication speed for users — near airports until Jan. 19 so officials will have more time to study potential disruptions.
“At Secretary [of Transportation Pete] Buttigieg’s request, we have voluntarily agreed to one additional two-week delay of our deployment of C-Band 5G services,” AT&T said in a statement. “We also remain committed to the six-month protection zone mitigations we outlined in our letter. We know aviation safety and 5G can co-exist and we are confident further collaboration and technical assessment will allay any issues.”
The agreement was struck after aviation industry officials threatened to sue the Federal Communications Commission to keep the rollout from taking effect on Jan. 5.
In December, the Federal Aviation Administration warned that it planned to ban pilots from using key aircraft instruments amid concerns that 5G signals could interfere with the devices. The FAA said blocking pilots from using the instruments could lead to widespread flight delays and diversions.