Airline CEOs: C-Band 5G Rollout Could Mean Chaos

c-band dish
(Image credit: Bloomberg/Getty)

Using terms like "calamity" and "chaos," the CEOs of the major airlines are warning that without some swift action, the planned January 19 rollout of 5G service in C-Band spectrum by AT&T and Verizon will cause even more harm to air traffic and shipping than they anticipated.

The airline industry has long been pushing back on an FCC decision to auction C-Band spectrum adjacent to that used for aircraft safety systems.

"Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies," they wrote to the relevant government officials--including FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel--with copies to Verizon and AT&T.

Also: Pilots Call for C-Band 5G Delay

Those carriers already delayed their rollout twice, from December to January 5, then to January 19 over concerns that it could create interference to aircraft safety systems, specifically radio altimeters, which tell a plane how far it is above terrain.

The airline CEOs said that manufacturers have warned that "huge swaths" of their fleets may be indefinitely grounded, with a lack of usable widebody aircraft causing domestic chaos to tens of thousands.

The CEOs say that towers that are too close to airport runways should not be used until the FAA can figure out how to do so without "catastrophic disruption" due to the threat of harmful interference.

FCC engineers have concluded that aircraft systems and unlicensed 5G can co-exist without harmful interference. ■

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.