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5G Buffer Zones Will Be Set Up in 50 US Airports: Federal Aviation Administration

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday disclosed an inventory of fifty US airports that may have buffer zones when wi-fi carriers activate new 5G C-band service on January 19.

AT&T and Verizon on Monday agreed to buffer zones round 50 airports to scale back the danger of disruption from potential interference to delicate airplane devices like altimeters. In addition, they agreed to delay deployment for 2 weeks, averting an aviation security standoff.

The record consists of airports in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York Metropolis, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

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The FAA notes that AT&T and Verizon have agreed to turn off their 5G transmitters at these specific buffer zones for six months, which should “minimize potential 5G interference with sensitive aircraft instruments used in low-visibility landings.”

Some airports — including major hubs like Hartsfield / Jackson International and Denver International — didn’t make the list, either because they aren’t in locations where 5G C-Band deployment will take place, or they can’t permit low-visibility landings.

AT&T and Verizon, which won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80 billion (roughly Rs. 5,93,850 crore) auction last year, declined comment.

On Thursday, the FAA renewed warnings that despite the agreement 5G wireless service could still disrupt flights, saying "even with the temporary buffer around 50 airports, 5G deployment will increase the risk of disruption during low visibility" including "flight cancellations, diverted flights, and delays during periods of low visibility."

AT&T and Verizon have been itching to deploy their improved 5G service ever since they spent a combined $70 billion last year on securing chunks of the C-band spectrum, which should provide a middle ground in terms of 5G speed and coverage — something that both carriers’ 5G service is currently lacking.

“If there’s the opportunity of a threat to the flying public, we’re obligated to pause the exercise, till we will show it’s secure,” the FAA stated.

Other airports not listed do not currently have the ability to allow low-visibility landings, the FAA said. It said the delay would allow it to evaluate ways to minimize disruptions, and also gives companies more time to prepare.

The two currently offer 5G service using super-fast high-band millimeter wave technology that only covers small areas, as well as the low-band spectrum, which provides a lot of coverage with slow service akin to 4G LTE. T-Mobile already offers mid-band 5G service, but it isn’t in the C-band range.

Airlines for America, a trade group representing US passenger and cargo carriers, said it appreciated the "FAA's efforts to implement mitigations for airports that may be most impacted by disruptions generated by the deployment of new 5G service."


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