AT&T, Verizon reject US government request to delay 5G service

The FAA is still 'reviewing the latest letter from the wireless companies on how to mitigate interference from 5G C-band transmissions'

The chief executives of Verizon and AT&T rejected the U.S. government's request to postpone Wednesday's rollout of the new 5G wireless service due to concerns over aviation safety.

On Sunday, the telecommunications giants sent a joint letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Steve Dickson, arguing that activating 5G C-band service would be "to the detriment of our millions of consumer, business and government customers."


"We care deeply about the safety of our customers, employees, and families, all of whom fly domestically and internationally for business and pleasure," Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg and AT&T CEO John Stankey wrote in the letter obtained by FOX Business. "Our two companies are deeply committed to public safety and national security, and fortunately, the question of whether 5G operations can safely coexist with aviation has long been settled." 

Southwest Airlines pilots perform a pre-check in a 737 aircraft before a flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Mike Stewart / Getty Images)

Vestberg and Stankey did agree, however, to some temporary measures over the next six months as a means to limit the service around certain airport runways. 

The FAA told FOX Business that it's still "reviewing the latest letter from the wireless companies on how to mitigate interference from 5G C-band transmissions" and that "U.S. aviation safety standards will guide our next actions." 

However, officials have previously drawn concerns about 5G service potentially interfering with sensitive aircraft electronics, according to Reuters. One such instrument is the radio altimeter (also known as a radar altimeter), which measures the height of planes above the ground by using radio waves. It provides a more precise reading than a barometric altimeter.  

The industry trade group Airlines for America requested that the Federal Communications Commission to delay the scheduled rollout near dozens of major airports out of safety concerns. 

Buttigieg and Dickson sent a letter to both CEOs on Dec. 31 to propose a delay in activating the service near an undetermined number of "priority airports" by no more than two weeks while the FAA studies the potential for interference with aircraft operations. 


However, Vestberg and Stankey argued in the letter that the FCC had "found that the use of the spectrum would cause no harmful interference to altimeters." 

Still, Airlines for America, told FOX Business on Monday that "without appropriate mitigations" the 5G deployment could disrupt as many as 345,000 passenger flights and 5,400 cargo flights each year due to delays, diversions or cancellations.  

Pilots talk as they look at the tail of an American Airlines aircraft at Dallas-Ft Worth International Airport February 14, 2013.  (REUTERS/Mike Stone / Reuters Photos)

"The airworthiness directive issued by the FAA on December 7th identified safety concerns and potential restrictions that will be highly disruptive to the National Airspace System, air travelers, the shipping public, the global supply chain and our employees," Airlines for America spokesperson Carter Young said. 


The trade group plans on continuing to "urge the FCC and the telecom industry to work with the FAA and the aviation industry on a practical solution that will enable the rollout of 5G technology while prioritizing safety and avoiding any disruption to the aviation system," Young continued. 

AT&T and Verizon Communications previously agreed to a one-month delay in rolling out the 5G technology, which offers faster speeds when mobile devices connect to their networks and allows users to connect many devices to the internet without slowing it down.  

The executives argued that agreeing to the latest proposal, however, would "be an unprecedented and unwarranted circumvention of the due process and checks and balances carefully crafted in the structure of our democracy." 

They also said that it would also be an "irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks that are every bit as essential to our country’s economic vitality, public safety and national interests as the airline industry."  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.