U.S. transportation officials told wireless carriers the government will not seek any further delays in deployment of 5G wireless service beyond Jan. 19 absent any "unforeseen aviation safety issues," according to a previously unreported letter.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson disclosed details in a joint letter late Monday to AT&T and Verizon Communications, outlining the agreement to delay C-Band wireless deployment by two weeks that had been set to begin Wednesday.
The agreement "will give us additional time and space to reduce the impacts to commercial flights," they wrote. "We are confident that your voluntary steps will support the safe coexistence of 5G C-Band deployment and aviation activities, helping to retain America’s economic strength and leadership role around the world."
The attached "final term sheet" said unless "unforeseen aviation safety issues" arise the U.S. agencies "will not seek or demand any further delays of C-Band deployment, in whole or in part, including a delay of return to routine operations."
An industry official told Reuters the deal gives them assurances they will be able to begin deployment this month.
The aviation industry and FAA have raised concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters that could disrupt flights.
AT&T and Verizon had agreed on Sunday to adopt exclusion zones for six months around some airports in a bid to mirror safeguards adopted by France.
The letter said that by Friday regulators will provide the carriers "with a list of no more than 50 priority airports that they would propose to be subject to the C-Band exclusion zones" that AT&T and Verizon had proposed Sunday.
Additional requests may be made for "voluntary surgical mitigation measures at any individual airport" but AT&T and Verizon "shall have sole discretion to determine if any requested mitigations, adjustments or alterations will be made."
AT&T and Verizon won nearly all of the C-Band spectrum in an $80-billion auction last year. In total, Verizon paid $52.9 billion for the spectrum, including incentive payments and clearing costs.
AT&T and Verizon in November had agreed to delay the deployment by 30 days to Jan. 5 after the FAA raised safety concerns and adopted voluntary precautionary measures for six months.
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