AT&T, Verizon 5G rollout: What to know

Over 100 million people across more than 1,700 cities will have faster speeds

After a series of delays, Verizon and AT&T are slated to roll out new 5G service on Wednesday in the C-band spectrum, which will offer users faster connectivity and upload and download speeds for activities such as streaming and video conferencing. The rollout has been met with warnings from the nation's largest airlines. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
T AT&T INC. 17.48 +0.07 +0.43%

The Federal Communications Commission granted C-band licenses to the telecommunications giants last year after Verizon and AT&T bid $45.45 billion and $23.41 billion, respectively, at an auction to help bolster their existing 5G networks. The C-band spectrum covers frequencies ranging between 3.7 and 3.98 gigahertz.

Here is a FOX Business roundup of everything you need to know about the upcoming 5G rollout:


How many people will be covered by the 5G rollout?

According to Verizon, more than 100 million people across more than 1,700 cities in the U.S. will have access to speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G LTE via its 5G Ultra Wideband network. The network will offer download speeds of 90 to 170 megabits per second with higher speeds and peaks over 1 gigabit per second in certain areas and upload speeds of 15 to 30 Mbps with peak speeds over 100 Mbps. 

As for AT&T, more than 250 million of its customers are currently covered by its nationwide 5G service and the company predicts that 70 to 75 million people in the U.S. will be covered by C-band in 2022 and up to 200 million people will be covered by C-band in 2023. AT&T currently offers high-band 5G+ service, which is live in parts of 44 U.S. cities and more than 20 venues and entertainment districts, and low band 5G service, which is available more broadly. 

Devices expected to support 5G service in the C-band spectrum include Apple's iPhone 12, iPhone 13, iPad Pro and iPad Mini; Samsung's Galaxy S21, Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3; and Google's Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. 

Economic benefit of 5G

A February 2021 study by Boston Consulting Group estimates that 5G networks could create about 4.5 million jobs in the U.S. and add roughly $1.5 trillion to the country’s gross domestic product through 2030. The firm's report argues that every six-month delay in 5G network deployment could result in missing out on an average of $25 billion in potential benefits between 2020 and 2030. 



Executives from Boeing and Airbus called for the 5G rollout to be postponed last month. The letter warned that the move could potentially interfere with radio altimeters on aircraft, which provide critical altitude information for pilots when operating in low visibility environments. Radio altimeters utilize frequencies between 4.2 and 4.4 gigahertz, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BA THE BOEING CO. 184.95 +1.99 +1.09%
EADSY AIRBUS SE 43.697 +0.48 +1.10%

The letter cited economic analysis from Airlines for America, a trade group representing the major carriers, which estimates the rollout could result in delays, diversions or cancellations for 345,000 passenger flights, 32 million passengers and 5,400 cargo flights, $2.1 billion in annual operating costs annually for U.S. airlines and A4A cargo operators and $1.59 billion in lost wages and productivity annually for passengers and shippers.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DAL DELTA AIR LINES INC. 52.70 +0.19 +0.36%
ALK ALASKA AIR GROUP INC. 43.29 +0.01 +0.02%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 27.86 -0.12 -0.43%
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 6.04 -0.07 -1.15%
FDX FEDEX CORP. 257.25 -1.53 -0.59%

In addition, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, FedEx, UPS and others sent a separate letter to the FAA, FCC, Department of Transportation and National Economic Council warning that the majority of commercial and cargo flights could be grounded by the rollout if major airports are not cleared to fly and that tens of thousands of Americans could potentially get stranded overseas. They asked officials to implement 5G everywhere in the country except within 2 miles of runways at affected airports defined by the FAA.


FAA, AT&T and Verizon action

In an airworthiness directive in December, the FAA said it would restrict pilots' use of automatic landing systems and other flight systems at low altitudes where they can be negatively impacted by 5G wireless signals while it studied the issue. Wireless industry trade group CTIA, the Aerospace Industries Association, and Airlines for America also agreed to share data in order to help the FAA and the FCC address the concerns.  

After already delaying the rollout to Jan. 5, Verizon and AT&T agreed to an additional two-week delay requested by the Department of Transportation. As part of the agreement, AT&T and Verizon will provide data on base stations, operating characteristics and planned deployment locations and "continue to work in good faith with aviation stakeholders to support the technical assessment of individual altimeters and airport environments." The FAA also issued a list of 50 airports that will be subject to C-band exclusion zones that will remain in effect until July 5. 

On Tuesday, the telecommunications giants also agreed to temporarily limit 5G deployment around select airport runways.  

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner  (Boeing)

As of Monday, roughly 45% of the U.S. commercial fleet has been cleared for low-visibility landings after the FAA approved two radio altimeter models installed on Boeing 737, 747, 757, 767, MD-10/-11 and Airbus A310, A319, A320, A321, A330 and A350 models. The agency added it expects to issue more approvals in the coming days.

Meanwhile, 137 Boeing 787 airplanes in the U.S. and 1,010 worldwide are being ordered to take additional precautions when landing on wet or snowy runways at airports where 5G C-band service is deployed. Safety experts determined that 5G interference could prevent the 787's engine and braking system's transition to landing mode, which could prevent the aircraft from stopping on the runway.