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FAA Outlines One-Year Phase-In of Mid-Band 5G Near Airports

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Jun 21, 2022, 7:30 AM   by Rich Brome   @rbrome

The FAA, wireless carriers, and the aviation industry have reached an agreement that will allow AT&T and Verizon to fully utilize their new mid-band 5G radio spectrum near airports by this time July 2023. The agreement includes a phased approach that will allow loosened restrictions by the end of 2022. AT&T and Verizon paid billions to the FCC for the right to use the airwaves starting at the end of 2021. Mid-band spectrum is ideal for 5G and allows the carriers to offer much better 5G service. But the FAA objected that 5G in this band could interfere with radio altimeters — critical airplane safety equipment in some conditions — that operate in a nearby band. This led to last-minute delays in launching the new 5G service. Testing has since found that most airplanes tolerate the signals just fine, but some smaller regional aircraft have altimeters with inadequate filters. These planes that are "most susceptible to interference" must be retrofitted with improved filters by the end of 2022. "This work has already begun and will continue on an expedited basis. At the same time, the FAA worked with the wireless companies to identify airports around which their service can be enhanced with the least risk of disrupting flight schedules." Additional filters and replacement altimeters will be installed on less-affected aircraft by July 2023, enabling "minimal restrictions" on 5G networks by that time.

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