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Verizon, AT&T Moving Forward with C-Band 5G Launch This Week Over FAA Objection

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Jan 2, 2022, 4:13 PM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome
updated Jan 3, 2022, 9:38 PM

Updated: Updated with later info on carriers agreeing to a delay.

Verizon and AT&T this morning refused a request by federal transportation officials to delay this week's planned launch of 5G service in the critical new C Band. [Update: By evening, the two companies agreed to a two-week delay.] The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) insists that the service could potentially interfere with radio altimeters that planes use to measure distance to the ground in poor weather. The companies, along with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), insist that such interference is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Radio altimeters use a frequency band close to the C Band. The frequencies do not overlap, but radio equipment with inadequate filters can sometimes be affected by adjacent frequencies. The FCC specifically set aside empty "guard bands" to avoid such interference before auctioning off the C Band to private companies, but the FAA insists a risk remains. C-Band frequencies are already in use for 5G in other countries, with no evidence of interference with airplane systems. To appease the FAA, Verizon and AT&T have already delayed the launch of 5G in the C Band by one month. In their latest letter to the FAA, they have offered to further limit the power of transmissions near airports while any potential effects are studied. While the companies had already agreed to similar temporary power limits in specific areas, the new proposal matches stricter limits currently in place in France. The two companies spent more than $80 billion in total to acquire licenses in the C Band from the FCC, with the promise that they would be able to offer improved 5G service by the end of 2021. C Band frequencies enable 5G service with a better balance of data speeds and coverage compared to the frequency bands currently in use by AT&T and Verizon.

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