The top airlines trade group filed an emergency request with the Federal Communications Commission Thursday asking for a delay in the rollout of new 5G wireless service near airports that it says threatens to disrupt flights.

Airlines for America, which represents the 10 major US passenger and cargo airlines, said more time is needed to resolve the dispute. It’s calling on the regulatory agency to delay use of airwaves near dozens of international airports, including Newark Liberty in New Jersey, John F. Kennedy in New York and George Bush Airport in Houston.

The FCC had awarded wireless network providers AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc access to new spectrum, called C-Band, with plans for new 5G service to begin Jan 5. The airline group said the agency “has never provided a reasoned analysis of why it has rejected the evidence submitted by the aviation interests.”

An FCC spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Airlines and other aviation-industry groups have been warning that there could be significant flight disruptions if the 5G airwaves were expanded, saying they could interfere with aircraft equipment. So-called radar altimeters, which beam radio waves at the ground to determine a plane’s altitude, use frequencies that are close to those to be used by the new 5G service.

The Federal Aviation Administration on Dec 23 issued a Safety Alert for Operators warning that “a wide range” of aircraft safety devices could malfunction and laid out the process it will follow to issue specific restrictions on flights if needed.

The wireless companies said they would roll out the 5G service at temporarily reduced power in the coming months to alleviate fears, but airline groups say the offer isn’t enough. CTIA, a trade group representing the wireless industry, said that active 5G networks using the same spectrum band work safely in almost 40 countries.

“Despite these meritless claims, the wireless industry continues to collaborate in good faith with the aviation industry, the FAA and the FCC, and remains confident that a positive resolution can be reached,” the group said in a statement on Thursday. – Bloomberg



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