AT&T and Verizon have rejected calls from Pete Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation to delay the rollout of their new 5G services — even as airline executives warn that the new technology would jam flight equipment and cause up to 350,000 flight delays each year.
In a scathing letter to Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration chief Stephen Dickson, the telecom companies accused airlines of fear-mongering about the new technology and said they would move forward with using the new “C-Band” 5G service as soon as this Wednesday.
Airlines have argued that the new 5G services will disrupt altimeter systems that planes rely on during nasty weather, leading to delays across the country, including at LaGuardia, JFK and Newark airports. Southwest Airlines CEO Greg Kelly has said 5G is his company’s “No. 1 concern.”
On New Year’s Eve, the FAA asked AT&T and Verizon to voluntarily postpone the rollout of the service due to concerns about flight delays, which have already soared in recent weeks amid rising coronavirus cases.
But AT&T and Verizon rejected the call to postpone the service and argued that similar technology has already been implemented overseas without disrupting flights, including in France.
“France provides a real-world example of an operating environment where 5G and aviation safety already co-exist,” the companies wrote. “The laws of physics are the same in the United States and France. If US airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States.”
In France, regulators ban the powerful 5G signals near airports — guidelines that the telecom companies said they voluntarily would follow in the US for six months.
In a statement to The Post, the FAA said it was reviewing the letter and that “U.S. aviation safety standards will guide our next actions.”
The agency, which is part of the Department of Transportation, also argued that the 5G bandwidth used in France is different from that used in the US, potentially making it less disruptive to flights.
The FAA and Federal Communications Commission have reportedly clashed over the issue, with the FCC siding closer to AT&T and Verizon and the FAA defending airlines.
Airline industry trade group Airlines for America said in a statement that it urges “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.”