Aviation, telecom groups to share data to help resolve Boeing, Airbus' 5G rollout concerns

The 5G rollout remains on track for Jan. 5

Following productive discussions, wireless industry trade group CTIA, the Aerospace Industries Association and Airlines for America have agreed to share data to help the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Communications Commission address concerns related to AT&T and Verizon's upcoming rollout of 5G C-band transmissions on Jan. 5.  

"The best technical experts from across both industries will be working collectively to identify a path forward, in coordination with the FAA and FCC," a joint statement issued on Wednesday reads. "Our belief is that by working collaboratively in good faith on a data-driven solution, we can achieve our shared goal of deploying 5G while preserving aviation safety."


The announcement comes after Airbus CEO Jeff Knittel and Boeing CEO David Calhoun sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday urging the administration to postpone the rollout. The executives expressed concern that potential interference from 5G C-band transmissions could impact radio altimeters on aircraft, which provide critical altitude information for pilots when operating in low visibility environments. 

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EADSY AIRBUS SE 36.04 -0.40 -1.10%

The letter cited an economic analysis from Airlines for America, which estimated that 5G C-band transmissions 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. The Department of Transportation declined to comment on the letter.

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The telecommunications giants previously agreed in November to delay the 5G rollout by a month to address those concerns, according to the Wall Street Journal.


In an airworthiness directive earlier this month, the FAA warned that 5G interference has the potential to "significantly degrade radio altimeter functions during critical phases of flight" and result in flight diversions. The agency added that 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 and will provide additional guidance before Jan. 5.  

However, wireless industry group CTIA has argued that nearly 40 countries are already safely using 5G C-band transmissions. 

"All available evidence—including existing 5G networks that use this spectrum in countries around the world and actual flight testing that was conducted on this very issue—show that 5G networks using these radio waves do not interfere with aviation equipment," an FAQ on its website states. "There is a limited amount of mid-band spectrum available to power 5G networks, and C-band spectrum is one of the few options available in the United States. Delaying access to this spectrum has real impacts: every six-month delay in 5G deployment costs our nation’s economy $25 billion in economic benefits over the next decade, risks America’s competitiveness, and jeopardizes our ability to ensure global 5G leadership."

Boeing Co's logo is seen above the front doors of its largest jetliner factory in Everett, Washington, U.S. January 13, 2017. REUTERS/Alwyn Scott (Reuters)

To help resolve the concerns, Boeing and Airbus have proposed a limit on 5G C-band transmissions around airports and where radio altimeters are critical to aircraft safety, which the executives say would mitigate potential interference and eliminate the need for the FAA's operational restrictions. 

"The aerospace industry is focused on fully evaluating and addressing the potential for 5G interference with radio altimeters," A Boeing spokesperson told FOX Business. "We are collaborating with aviation authorities, government leaders, airlines, and industry groups to ensure the continued operational safety of aircraft throughout the aviation system worldwide."


The FAA told FOX Business it is "encouraged that avionics manufacturers and wireless companies are taking steps to test how dozens of radio altimeters will perform in the high-powered 5G environment envisioned for the United States" and that it will work with manufacturers and operators to make sure testing provides "adequate safety margins and accounts for the variety of safety systems that rely on accurate information from radio altimeters." 

The FCC added it continues to work productively with the FAA to ensure the safe and swift deployment of new technologies and remain optimistic that outstanding issues related to the 5G launch will be resolved.

FOX Business' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.