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Lightening-fast new 5G wireless may be the cause of your next flight delay

December 15, 2021, 10:04 AM UTC

Pilots and airlines pressed for more steps to ensure that new 5G wireless service next month doesn’t endanger aircraft, hours after the Federal Communications Commission’s chairwoman expressed confidence the matter could be resolved swiftly.

Groups including the Air Line Pilots Association and Airlines for America, an industry trade group, requested more talks that would include the FCC, the Federal Aviation Administration and the White House.

“Time is running out before millions of air travelers and the shipping public experience significant disruptions such as flight delays, flight cancellations and backups to the already-stressed supply chain,” the aviation groups said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel lauded mobile operators’ efforts to resolve the dispute. The airwaves use at issue was approved by the FCC and is seen as a key business opportunity for mobile providers eager to lure wireless customers to fast 5G services.

“I have confidence in the mitigations that have been offered up by the wireless industry,” Rosenworcel said at a news conference. “I also have confidence we’re going to find solutions to safely and swiftly deploy 5G services.”

AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have proposed to reduce power to mitigate risks to aviation. The FAA and airlines have said the 5G signals might interfere with altimeters that calculate altitude and help with landings.

Rosenworcel said the FCC is “having productive conversations with the FAA.”

The FAA on Dec. 7 issued a pair of directives saying that it may be necessary to restrict landings at some airports once the new service is switched on. The agency is working with telecom companies and the aviation industry to determine the potential for interference at specific locations and where restrictions might be needed.

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