Two of the largest cell phone providers in the country are moving forward with their original plans to launch 5G wireless service this week, even as federal officials warn that such technology could pose a risk of interfering with aviation equipment, according to Politico.
In a joint letter sent to the State Department by the CEOs of AT&T and Verizon, the executives argued that an expansion of cell phone coverage via 5G is necessary amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“With continued COVID crises, it has never been more important that our country’s critical communications infrastructure have the spectrum needed to handle escalating traffic demands from our customers,” said AT&T’s John Stankey and Verizon’s Hans Vestberg.
Conversely, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Stephen Dickson had asked both companies to postpone the launch for at least another two weeks, as both agencies wished to further investigate concerns that have been raised about whether or not certain aircraft could be negatively impacted by such technology.
In their own joint letter, Buttigieg and Dickson warned that the rushed launch of 5G technology will result in “widespread and unacceptable disruption as airplanes divert to other cities or flights are canceled, causing ripple effects throughout the U.S. air transportation.”
Concerns over 5G technology first arose during the Trump Administration, after mobile phone companies spent a collective total of $80 billion on licenses for C-band airwaves that could cover 5G technology. Airlines have taken the government’s side in the controversy, requesting an emergency stay to delay the launch even after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ultimately concluded that 5G technology is safe to use.
While the cell phone CEOs agreed to further mitigation measures to monitor the progress of the 5G technology through July 5th, they refused to delay the launch any further, claiming that such a delay “would not only be an unprecedented and unwarranted circumvention of the due process and checks and balances carefully crafted in the structure of our democracy, but an irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks that are every bit as essential to our country’s economic vitality, public safety and national interests as the airline industry.”