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AT&T, Verizon Refuse U.S. Request To Delay 5G Launch

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AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. rejected a request from the U.S. federal transportation officials to delay their planned launch on January 5 of a new variation of 5G wireless services.

The officials in their request had cited that the new C-Band spectrum could cause widespread and unacceptable disruption to air traffic as 5G signals are feared to interfere with aircraft electronics, posing a safety hazard.

In a joint letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the CEOs of both telecom giants said the U.S. request seeks to take more steps that would be to the detriment of their millions of consumers, business, and government customers.

The companies, however, offered to alter the use of the C-Band spectrum for a six-month period, until July 5, 2022, near certain airports that will be selected in negotiations with U.S. officials and the aviation industry. This is to give the U.S. authorities more time to study the signals' effect on air traffic.

Responding to the U.S. request letter, the companies, which had already delayed the launch to January 5, said the officials are seeking steps to once again assist the aviation industry and the FAA after failing to resolve issues in the costly 30-day delay period.

The latest request from the U.S. comes after a December 30, 2021 petition by airlines seeking a delay in the launch, noting that they could lose more than $1 billion if they can't properly operate their aircraft due to interference concerns, and that it could also disrupt travel plans for millions of passengers.

The U.S. Government's auction of the C-band spectrum almost a year ago raised more than $80 billion for the U.S. Treasury.

AT&T and Verizon said the U.S. Government had approached them in November to ask to delay using the C-Band spectrum in order to avoid potential disruption to the aviation industry, which had been in its own power to avoid.

Despite the works of thousands for almost a year and billions spent towards a December 5 C-Band deployment, AT&T and Verizon had then agreed to wait until January 5, 2022 to begin using the C-Band and to implement additional restrictions on use of the spectrum through July 5, 2022, over and above the operational restrictions the FCC already had found sufficient to protect radio altimeters.

In their letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Steve Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Verizon Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg and AT&T's John Stankey said, "At its core, your proposed framework asks that we agree to transfer oversight of our companies' multi-billion dollar investment in 50 unnamed metropolitan areas representing the lion's share of the U.S. population to the FAA for an undetermined number of months or years. Even worse, the proposal is directed to only two companies..."

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