FAA Holds Firm on Carriers’ Right to Use Full 5G Power on C-Band

UPDATE The Biden administration does not plan to extend a July 1 deadline for airlines to upgrade airplane altimeters to address potential interference from 5G wireless technology. That’s according to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, reiterating what Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen told Congress last week.

Buttigieg told airlines this week the deadline will not be moved, noted Reuters. He said airlines had made progress but urged them to work aggressively to continue retrofitting airplanes, according to the Transportation Department. 

His statement means the administration will uphold its pledge to carriers concerning their use of full 5G transmission power on C-band frequencies. Last year, Verizon and AT&T voluntarily agreed to delay some C-band 5G use until July 1 as air carriers worked to retrofit airplane altimeters. This March, four major U.S. wireless carriers agreed to some voluntary actions to address aviation safety concerns and allow them full use of the C-band wireless spectrum for 5G use, Inside Towers reported. The agreement with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile US and UScellular followed discussions with the FAA, enabling the carriers to increase power levels to full C-band use by July 1. 

It was the first time Buttigieg has weighed in on the July 1 deadline before new rules take effect prohibiting certain landings in low-visibility conditions without upgraded altimeters. Some airlines had pressed him hard for an extension, according to Reuters.

The International Air Transport Association represents more than 100 carriers that fly to the United States. It said: “Supply chain issues make it unlikely that all aircraft can be upgraded by the 1 July deadline, threatening operational disruptions during the peak northern summer travel season.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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