New Street: FAA, FCC C-Band Standoff “Abating”

New Street Research telecom analysts believe recent statements by the FCC and FAA give them more confidence that carriers will begin transmitting 5G on C-band in January. New Street Policy Advisor Blair Levin said in a client note that analysts interpret last week’s FAA statements as the agency “stepping away from the threat of a broad shutdown of flights” once AT&T and Verizon begin 5G operations.

Inside Towers reported the FAA said it believes 5G and aviation “will safely co-exist.” It issued two airworthiness directives to gather more information to avoid potential effects on aviation safety equipment. The FAA also noted that it’s working with the FCC and wireless companies, and they’ve “made progress toward safely implementing the 5G expansion.” 

The FCC agreed process has been made “as evidenced by the technical mitigations wireless carriers adopted last month. We look forward to updated guidance from the FAA in the coming weeks that reflects these developments.”

New Street believes the risk of a major delay in delivering 5G services is abating, notes Levin. “While the FAA is far from saying that everything is alright, its tone is far more optimistic about resolving the issues.” He also calls the FCC’s characterization of the issue as “optimistic.”

Earlier, he wrote that the postures of both agencies was like playing a “deep state game of chicken.” Now, it’s more like a game of chicken “in which everyone agrees not to drive more than five miles an hour and to wear seatbelts,” states Levin.

“The risk of a major problem has been considerably reduced due both to the voluntary temporary power limits and antenna restrictions on C-band deployments near airports that AT&T and Verizon offered and the FAA being more specific in its concerns related to locations and other factors,” writes the former FCC Chief of Staff under Chairman Reed Hundt. “While negotiations continue, and there may be some further changes, the kinds of risks that concerned investors early on appear even more unlikely.”

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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