Congress addresses controversy over 5G service near airports | News, Sports, Jobs
Lawmakers wondered aloud on Thursday how a showdown between two federal agencies over the rollout of a new high-speed wireless service reached crisis proportions last month, but they couldn’t find answers to a dispute which raised concerns about interference with key equipment on some aircraft.
Some flights have been canceled since Verizon and AT&T activated their new networks last month, but predictions of widespread cancellations have proven wrong. The Federal Aviation Administration has allowed 90% of the nation’s airline fleet to land in poor visibility at airports near 5G cell towers.
These approvals are made monthly, aircraft by aircraft, based on the radio altimeter model they use to measure their height above the ground. Some “less efficient” planes are still limited and a permanent solution for the entire fleet is likely at least a year away, FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson said during an aviation subcommittee hearing. bedroom.
The CEOs of American Airlines and United Airlines said they expected no further disruptions. However, more than half of planes operated by regional airlines remain limited in bad weather, said Faye Malarkey Black, president of a trade group for small carriers, some of which operate flights for American Eagle, United Express and Delta. Connection.
Black said cancellations are still happening and more than a quarter of flights at the three major New York-area airports are operated by smaller planes that cannot land there in bad weather due to related restrictions. to 5G.
Verizon and AT&T have agreed to two delays before launching most of their new 5G service scheduled for January 19, except near airports, where they have agreed not to turn on new cell towers at this time.
Dozens of flights were canceled due to 5G issues after services went live, but widespread cancellations were averted.
The current temporary solution came after the White House stepped in to address a lack of cooperation between the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission that threatened to create massive disruption for airlines and passengers.
Rep. John Katko, RN.Y., told Dickson that last-minute FAA guidance for operating around 5G indicates “that you really didn’t have a plan and didn’t understand the gravity of the situation in advance.”
Dickson said the FAA cannot allow low-visibility flights near the new signals until it gets information from the telecommunications companies about the location, height and power of their 5G towers.
The FAA chief said regulators and experts from both industries are now working together. Last week, the FAA said new data from companies has paved the way for more towers to be activated near airports.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., Blamed the clash on the FCC, which approved Verizon and AT&T’s plans to launch faster, more reliable 5G service using the part C-Band of the radio spectrum which is close to the range used by aircraft altimeters, which are essential for landing in poor visibility.
DeFazio said he and aviation interests raised concerns about possible interference for several years, but the FCC ignored them and auctioned off 5G spectrum without ensuring there would be no interference. no interference with aviation.
“Having an abandoned call is much less serious than having an abandoned plane”, he said.
The FCC said it provided enough buffer between C-band and radio altimeters to avoid interference.
FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel was asked to testify but had a dispute, according to a spokesperson for the agency, who declined to describe the dispute. He said Rosenworcel spoke separately on Wednesday with DeFazio and aviation subcommittee chairman D-Wash Rep. Rick Larsen.
The FCC and telcos say another 40 countries have rolled out 5G C-band service with no reports of radio interference from aircraft. Aviation groups say these countries have low-power 5G signals or impose other restrictions on the service to avoid interference, a claim disputed by the telecom industry.
Meredith Baker, president of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, said an aviation group’s 2020 study that raised serious concerns about interference was flawed and distorted by presenting worst-case scenarios.
DeFazio and Larsen countered that aviation safety requires considering even implausible events.
“That’s what we expect – worst case scenario,” said DeFazio.
The FAA has a list of how major airports are affected, and other information on 5G: https://www.faa.gov/5g
David Koenig can be contacted at www.twitter.com/airlinewriter