AT&T, Verizon Refuse FAA Request to Delay 5G Launch


AT&T and Verizon have said they plan to start new 5G wireless service on Wednesday.


Jim West/Zuma Press

AT&T Inc.

T -0.73%


Verizon Communications Inc.

VZ -0.56%

rebuffed a request from federal transportation officials to delay the launch of new 5G wireless services but offered a counterproposal that would allow limited deployments to move forward this week.

The cellphone carriers said Sunday in a letter reviewed by The Wall Street Journal that they could further dim the power of their new 5G service for six months to match limits imposed by regulators in France, giving U.S. authorities more time to study more powerful signals’ effect on air traffic. The plan from the companies, which have said they plan to start service Wednesday, could prolong a standoff between the telecom and aviation industries over how to proceed.

“If U.S. airlines are permitted to operate flights every day in France, then the same operating conditions should allow them to do so in the United States,” the CEOs wrote in the letter.

Telecom-industry officials have pointed to dozens of countries, including France, that have already allowed cellular service over the frequencies in question, known as C-band. France is among the countries that have imposed wireless limits near airports while regulators study their effect on aircraft.

The message from AT&T CEO

John Stankey

and Verizon CEO

Hans Vestberg

was in response to a letter Transportation Secretary

Pete Buttigieg

and Federal Aviation Administration chief

Steve Dickson

sent late Friday. The New Year’s Eve missive asked the carriers to postpone their planned 5G launch by “no more than two weeks” while officials worked to address the wireless services’ effect on specific airports on a rolling basis over the coming weeks.

The FAA and Transportation Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

5G and Air Traffic

More WSJ coverage on the debate over wireless frequencies and aviation, selected by the editors.

Write to Drew FitzGerald at

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