Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon say they will delay activating their 5G network on a "limited number of towers" near some airport runways following warnings from US airlines.
AT&T and Verizon have agreed to delay launching new wireless services near key US airports after the nation's largest airlines said the service would interfere with aircraft technology and cause massive flight disruptions.
The decision from the telecommunication companies came on Tuesday as the Biden administration tried to broker a settlement between the telecom companies and the airlines over a rollout of a new 5G service, scheduled for Wednesday.
Airlines want the new service to be banned within two miles of airport runways.
"We are launching our advanced 5G services everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers," said an AT&T spokesperson.
AT&T described its latest move as voluntary and temporary and added it is working with the airline industry and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Following AT&T's announcement, another telecom giant Verizon also said that the company will launch its 5G operations but "we have voluntarily decided to limit our 5G network around airports."
Verizon blamed airlines and the FAA, saying they “have not been able to fully resolve to navigate 5G around airports" although it is working in more than 40 countries.
Telecom giants spent tens of billions of dollars to obtain 5G licenses last year, but as the launch date approached, aviation industry groups raised concerns about possible interference with airplanes' radio altimeters –– which can operate at the same frequencies.
5G menace over aircrafts
On Monday, CEOs of the nation’s largest airlines said that interference from the wireless service will be worse than they originally thought.
"To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt" unless the service is blocked near major airports, the CEOs said in a letter to federal officials.
The airlines, including American, Delta, United and Southwest, asked that the new, faster mobile service be banned within two miles of runways.
AT&T and Verizon planned to activate their new 5G wireless service on Wednesday after two previous delays from the original plan for an early December rollout.
The new high-speed 5G service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters, which are devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground.
Pilots use altimeters to land when visibility is poor, and they link to other systems on planes.
AT&T and Verizon say their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics, and that the technology is being safely used in many other countries.