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Radio News: Battle between 5G providers and airline industry heats up again

May 26, 2022 11:33 pm

ProPublica takes a deep dive into the rollout of 5G wireless technology and how that affected airplanes. The Federal Aviation Administration objected to the Federal Communications Commission’s authorization of 5G networks near airports, but the story paints both agencies as incompetent industry toadies. There is no problem with the 5G technology, but with the altimeters of planes. They are often older, and not designed for our new digital world with more radio signals whizzing all around. The FAA was concerned that altimeters on planes, used in automated aircraft landings, would accidentally receive 5G radio signals, and not give pilots proper readings. Aviation experts warned of “catastrophic failures leading to multiple fatalities," the story says. In January, an agreement was struck, with Verizon and AT&T temporarily not turning on more than 600 5G transmission towers near the runways of 87 airports and reducing the power of others. ProPublica trace the entire story revealing "profound failures" at the FCC. On July 5 the temporary agreement expires, but aviation officials say it would take at two years to replace the older altimeters. "The rhetoric of the FCC chief is almost identical to that of the industry she regulates. As recently as last month, Jessica Rosenworcel, the Biden-appointed FCC chair, dismissed aviation concerns as, in effect, a shakedown — a ploy to get telecom companies to fund a nationwide upgrade of airplane equipment," the story says. Even if another agreement is struck in July, "T-Mobile and other wireless companies are approved to roll out additional 5G service at the end of 2023, using a C-band frequency even closer to the one used by the airplane safety equipment," ProPublica reports. “The wireless companies have made it very clear they’re not going to agree to an open-ended situation,” one FAA official told ProPublica. “They seem willing to go past July 5, as long as they know how far past. But they’re making clear their patience is not infinite.” Click here to read the entire ProPublica story.