5G interference concerns may not be fixed by July deadline, says Buttigieg

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Congress that concerns about 5G interference with radar altimeters on aircraft “won’t be completely resolved by this summer,” as was previously the goal. He did say that it is a top priority.

In a hearing on Thursday, Buttigieg told the Senate Appropriations Committee that he will continue monitoring the concerns, after the initial launch of 5G wireless networks in January got off to a rocky start with several airline flight cancellations.

The FAA has voiced concerns that the 5G wireless networks would interfere with cockpit safety systems that utilize radar altimeters. The FCC, which regulates the commercial use of airwaves, countered the FAA’s concerns, saying there hasn’t been enough evidence to support claims that 5G will interfere with aircraft systems.

The FAA eventually sang a different tune, saying it believes aviation and the 5G C-band can ‘safely coexist’ and collaborating with aviation and wireless companies to find a solution.

After initially rejecting the request by both the FAA and the U.S. Department of Transportation to delay the 5G wireless rollout from January 5 until January 19, AT&T and Verizon both backtracked after much pressure from the aviation industry, agreeing to push the launch date.

RELATED: AT&T, Verizon to delay 5G launch by two weeks

The telecommunication companies did offer to alter the use of C-band for six months, through July 5, 2022, near airports that will be selected during negotiations with the industry. This 6-month compromise will still be upheld by AT&T and Verizon, despite the delay.

RELATED: FAA issues list of airports with 5G buffer

This additional time was meant to provide the FAA and other aviation industry authorities time to continue their study of the signal’s effect on air traffic.

Buttigieg said he’s optimistic about preventing future conflict “largely because we have much better dialogue and collaboration, not just among regulators, but among industries, and have been directly engaging with airlines, the aviation equipment manufacturers and with the telecom carriers to make sure that we’re on a better path.”

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