Verizon and AT&T's C-Band 5G launches could cause 'chaos' for US flights this week
Tomorrow is a big day for two of the top three wireless service providers stateside, but the huge breakthrough expected to instantly give up to 100 million people access to faster 5G (in theory) could indirectly inconvenience more than 100 thousand air travellers across the nation (in practice).
While the FAA expects to expand the list before tomorrow by issuing more approvals for both airplanes and airports, there doesn't seem to be enough time left to completely avoid the aforementioned "catastrophic disruption" and "chaos."
While Verizon and AT&T have (reluctantly) agreed to not one but two different C-Band 5G rollout delays already, as well as so-called "buffer zones" around 50 major airports from Dallas to Los Angeles and from Pittsburgh to San Francisco, US airlines still fear the nation's commerce will effectively "grind to a halt" on Wednesday.
Just in case that doesn't sound dramatic enough, a letter penned by the chief executives of American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines among others goes on to paint an even bleaker picture by anticipating "catastrophic disruption" of both domestic and international flights potentially causing "chaos" around the country.
You might want to postpone your upcoming trip if you still can
inside the US and to the US from abroad, with landings rather than takeoffs expected to be impacted by possible 5G interference.We know it's short notice, but if you have a flight scheduled for January 19, it may not be too late for a last-minute change of plans. That goes for trips
One of the greatest concerns, of course, is that "tens of thousands of Americans" could be stranded overseas while even more people in the US will almost certainly face cancellations, diversions, and delays as many planes are likely to remain grounded.
That's not counting cargo planes, mind you, a large number of which could end up in the same situation... indefinitely. Yes, we're afraid that the problem will not magically go away on Thursday... or Friday, or anytime soon, so this might prove to be simply the beginning of a lengthy nightmare for both air travellers and airlines.
For what it's worth, almost half of the US commercial airplane fleet has been cleared by the Federal Aviation Administration for low-visibility landings at "many" airports with impending nearby C-Band 5G signals after AT&T and Verizon's latest schedule revisions, which still leaves... the other half of the nation's planes and "many" other airports, including very large ones, in limbo.
What is C-Band 5G and what exactly is the problem again?
Developed as an alternative to T-Mobile's wireless industry-leading Ultra Capacity 5G network, C-Band 5G uses radio frequencies between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz that can apparently interfere with altimeters and other "modern safety systems" found on many passenger and cargo planes operating in the US.
The C-Band spectrum purchased at a huge auction less than a year ago by Verizon and AT&T for a combined $68 billion+ is likely to considerably close the gap between the two carriers and T-Mobile, which currently holds a remarkable lead in both 5G speeds and especially 5G availability.
It's for that reason that Big Red and Ma Bell cannot afford any more delays, having waited at least a couple more months than originally planned for their major 5G network expansions to be deemed safe.
Although that's obviously still not the case, with airlines demanding the federal government impose stricter restrictions on mobile network operators around more airports, Verizon and AT&T continue to point to "about 40 other countries" where C-Band 5G technology has been deployed with no significant aviation interference or major air transportation disruption.
It remains to be seen if the January 19 5G launches will proceed as scheduled (probably) and if airlines will simply decide to risk it and clear all planes for normal operations despite safety concerns (less likely).