There is a serious difference of opinion being argued between executives of the biggest airlines in the country and big wireless companies, and a flight you take next year could be affected by what happens. Some of the top airline CEOs got in front of a Senate Commerce Committee hearing to make sure lawmakers understood the gravity of what they say is a huge problem that could be coming in January.  The execs said if US wireless carriers move forward with developing a specific type of 5G service, it will interfere with control towers, and travelers will start seeing major delays and disruptions beginning January 5.

It’s the AT&T and Verizon C-band spectrum 5G service that the CEOs said would force airlines to cancel or divert roughly 4% of all daily flights. 

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby was the most vocal.  Here’s part of what he told Reuters recently. 

“It would be a catastrophic failure of government. Coming Jan. 5 — unless something changes — we will not be able to use radio altimeters at 40-something of the largest airports in the country. It is a certainty. This is not a debate.”

Kirby also said that the potential interference between 5G cell towers and the altimeters in airplanes during bad weather or thick cloud cover could force pilots to only use visual approaches instead of sensitive instruments in the cockpit to guide their landing. 

The wireless industry has argued that there would not be harmful interference from 5G.  Here’s what their wireless lobby CTIA said in a filing to the FCC.

“Nearly 40 countries have already adopted rules and deployed hundreds of thousands of 5G base stations in the C-Band at similar frequencies and similar power levels — and in some instances, at closer proximity to aviation operations — than 5G will be in the U.S.”

The wireless industry has invested over $80 billion in this wireless spectrum. According to a story in CNET, it can transmit 5G signals further than ultra-high frequency millimeter wave spectrum but still maintain fast download speeds. 

Both AT&T and Verizon have voluntarily agreed to take precautions, and Joe Biden’s administration is working with the FC and aviation industry to resolve the issues. 

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