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5G rollout could strand tens of thousands of airline passengers beginn

“Chaos” could reign for U.S. travelers beginning on Wednesday, according to major airlines (via Reuters), because it is the day that Verizon and AT&T are expected to enable their C-Band 5G. C-Band is a radio frequency spectrum on which the companies’ 5G services will run. It will enable both faster 5G speeds and wider areas of coverage–in other words, C-Band could help deliver 5G’s speedier promises.

But the rollout of 5G on that C-Band spectrum is set to be catastrophic for airlines, as potential interference could affect the altimeters and other sensitive equipment on aircraft near major airport hubs that are bathed in the new 5G spectrum. In a letter to the FAA, FCC, and U.S. Department of Transportation, major airlines including American, Delta, United, and Southwest warn that the rollout could force airlines to ground planes due to safety fears, leaving as many as 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers impacted by cancellations and delays.

The airlines also say such delays will impact more than just consumer flights. Planes that ship cargo, including vaccines, will also be impacted. “The ripple effects across both passenger and cargo operations, our workforce, and the broader economy are simply incalculable,” the airlines warn. “Every one of the passenger and cargo carriers will be struggling to get people, shipments, planes, and crews where they need to be. To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”

The airlines are asking that Verizon and AT&T’s C-Band 5G not be implemented within two miles of runways at affected airports until major U.S. hubs are cleared to fly. The FAA has responded by stating the body “will continue to ensure that the traveling public is safe as wireless companies deploy 5G. The FAA continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.”

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