50 US airports to be surrounded by 5G C-band-free zones

AT&T and Verizon come to agreement with FAA on tech rollout

Live close to an airport in US and have a 5G handset? The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has released a promised list of major American airports to be surrounded by buffer zones that won't have 5G-C band service.

The tech is slated to go live on January 19th.

The selected 50 airports – which include JFK, LAX and SFO – were chosen based on traffic volume, number of low-visibility days and geographic location, said the FAA in a canned statement.

The buffer zones are designed to keep wireless signals and aircraft separate following reports that the 3.7 GHz band used by the 5G C-band could harmfully interfere with civilian aircraft radar altimeters.

The wireless companies, meaning AT&T and Verizon as they won almost all the C-band spectrum contracts, have agreed to turn off transmitters near the 50 airports for six months "to minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-visibility landings."

However, the CEOs of the two companies have denied that 5G could be dangerous for aircraft operations as the C-band frequencies (3.7 - 3.8 GHz) operate far enough below altimeters (4.2 – 4.4 GHz) to not present a problem.

Should AT&T CEO John Stankey and Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg be wrong, 50 airports may seem worryingly insufficiently comprehensive, but some airports didn't make the list because the 5G-C band service isn't actually available there.

The technology was originally scheduled for switch-on on 5 December but this date was pushed back twice over safety concerns, with operators negotiating with the FAA on subsequent rollout dates. ®

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