Skip to main content

Verizon and AT&T propose 5G midband power limits to avoid aircraft interference

Following concerns from the aviation industry, both Verizon and AT&T have agreed to temporarily lower the power of their new midband 5G towers to quell fears that the new spectrum could interfere with equipment on board commercial and military aircraft. 

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans last year to auction a new section of C-band spectrum, a number of commercial aviation groups raised concerns that these new 5G frequencies could cause catastrophic failures in avionics that could even lead to collisions. As a result, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and U.S. Department of Transportation jointly called on the FCC to pause the auction until the matter could be more thoroughly investigated. 

Airliner cockpit with digital instrument panels.
Shandell Venegas / Unsplash

Despite this, the FCC forged ahead, disagreeing with studies that suggested that a concentration of 5G telecommunications in the new 3.7–3.98GHz C-band could bleed through into the 4.2–4.4GHz range used by aircraft equipment such as radar altimeters. The 0.2GHz buffer in-between the frequencies was more than sufficient to avoid interference, FCC officials said. 

Earlier this month, however, The Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay their midband 5G rollouts into early 2022 at the request of FAA officials. Both carriers had planned to begin rolling out the new spectrum in early December, but voluntarily pushed the date back to January 5 in “the spirit of good faith,” as Verizon officials said. While the FCC and carriers still insist that the C-band rollout poses no risk to cockpit safety systems, they’ve agreed to work with the FAA to try to address its concerns, and now they’re proposing another compromise to further placate the aviation industry.

According to the WSJ, Verizon and AT&T have sent a joint letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, offering to dial back the power of their 5G cell towers for six months to give aviation safety researchers time to more carefully study the effects of the new spectrum on equipment such as radar altimeters. 

While an overall limit on midband 5G power would be applied nationwide, the companies also promised to lower the signal output even further near airports and helipads. In the letter to Rosenworcel, the companies added that they “remain confident that 5G poses no risk to air safety,” but they also want to be “sensitive to the Federal Aviation Administration’s desire for additional analysis of this issue.” 

An FCC spokesperson said that the agency has agreed with the limits, describing it as “one of the most comprehensive efforts in the world to safeguard aviation technologies,” and says it will work with the FAA to get the new 5G frequencies deployed “both safely and swiftly.” 

Both AT&T and Verizon remain on track to begin their new midband 5G deployments on January 5, 2022, and executives note that they don’t expect the temporary limits to have any serious effects on bandwidth during the initial rollouts. 

Editors' Recommendations

Jesse Hollington
Jesse has been a technology enthusiast for his entire life — he probably would have been born with an iPhone in his hand…
Live in a rural area? Verizon 5G is about to get better for you
Verizon store front displays the 5G network in NYC.

Verizon plans to expand its faster 5G Ultra Wideband network to reach beyond urban and suburban centers later this year, helping to drive up performance for folks in rural areas and spearhead the growth of its fixed wireless access (FWA) broadband services.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestburg touched on these details this week in the company’s quarterly earnings call, where he lauded the rapid expansion of the carrier’s C-band coverage to reach 200 million people in just over a year “since we lit up the first site.”

Read more
T-Mobile’s 5G is still unmatched — but have speeds plateaued?
Woman holding up smartphone with speed test results on Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband network.

Each time a new analysis of mobile network performance gets published, it’s almost a given that we’ll see T-Mobile leading the pack in terms of delivering the fastest 5G speeds. After all, the “Un-carrier” had a massive lead in deploying its 5G networks — and it hasn’t been resting on its laurels.

However, its competitors haven’t been sitting still either. While Verizon may have been starting from behind, it’s been aggressively deploying the faster 5G spectrum that gave it a nice leap in 5G performance last year. Still, Verizon and AT&T are lagging quite a bit in overall mobile network performance, and AT&T has fallen even farther behind when it comes to delivering the best 5G speeds across the nation.

Read more
Moto G Power 5G adds a flagship feature to a budget phone
Render of the Motorola Moto G Power 5G in a white color against a light purple background.

Motorola may be making a play for the flagship market with the Motorola Edge 40 Pro, but budget phones are what the American monolith is best known for. While it won't be making as many waves as the latest Samsung phone or Apple iPhone launch, the newest iteration of the Moto G is always something worth paying attention to, as Motorola is a true veteran of the space and knows what makes an excellent cheap device.

Best of all, this new Moto G comes at a time when budget phone enthusiasts have never had it so good. Previously premium features are filtering down into lower-priced devices, without altering that sweet low price or the features everyone loves. That's exactly what's happening with the new Motorola Moto G Power 5G, which includes a 50-megapixel main camera lens, a larger amount of storage, and a big screen with a 120Hz refresh rate. With the big 5,000mAh battery the G Power range is known for, this could be the $300 phone to grab if you love a budget bargain.
Super-smooth motion

Read more