On December 22nd CTIA, the wireless telecom industry association, the Aerospace Industries Association and Airlines for America agreed to work together on a plan to launch 5G safely and on schedule. This is a major move forward and seems like the right players are now at the table to get this dispute resolved. There appears to be voluminous data that supports the claims by both sides and it is now time that all of the interested parties get together, review the data and make this happen. At issue here is interference with radio altimeters especially as it relates to planes landing in bad weather and with bad visibility.
How could the government have auctioned off licenses worth billions of dollars if there was any doubt whether or not they might interfere with aviation operations? It seems like in their haste to bring dollars to the treasury this controversy was swept under the rug and is only now coming to the forefront. Verizon and ATT bid in good faith, anticipating using these frequencies at full power but it appears that the FCC may temporarily or permanently insist on reduced power output for these frequencies. The FCC Chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel, told Congress that the FCC may put restrictions on power output for the C-Band spectrum at her nomination hearing recently. This may include a reduction in the power output they may use. Nothing has been firmed up yet on this issue but it is assumed that this new group of associations will address this issue immediately as the January 5th launch of this new spectrum is imminent.
The wireless industry has argued that there is a significant guard band between their frequencies and what aviation uses for radio altimeters. “The FCC continues to work productively with the FAA to ensure the safe and swift deployment of new technologies,” said an FCC spokesperson. “We remain optimistic that we will resolve outstanding issues to launch 5G to meet the country’s evolving needs.” As part of the flying public I certainly hope that this issue is resolved without emotion and based on the data so that flying in bad weather stays safe.
It appears that even the FCC Chairwoman has concerns. She recently stated that “out of an abundance of caution” that the FCC was considering a number of measures to insure that there would be no interference with radio altimeters that may include a nationwide power reduction, creating exclusion zones around airports and limiting skyward transmissions.
If these measures come to pass would Verizon and ATT have cause to ask for money back from their auction bids? If they no longer have unfettered use of these airwaves it appears that they might have justification. At this time there is no indication that anyone has buyers remorse but will they in the future. Time will tell.