Verizon and AT&T 5G Service Delayed After Airlines Warn Supply Chain Would ‘Grind to a Halt’

Man on mobile phone waiting for his flight at airport. Male hands holding smartphone stock photo
Lina Moiseienko /

As if U.S. businesses and consumers didn’t have enough supply chain issues to contend with as crowded ports can’t move goods fast enough, a new 5G service could wreak further havoc, Reuters reported. The new C-Band 5G service developed by Verizon and AT&T could interfere with altimeters and other sensitive airplane instruments, the Federal Aviation Administration warned.

However, late Tuesday, both telecommunications providers agreed to voluntarily delay deployment of the service near airports, after chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest and others outlined their concerns in a letter to the FAA, which was first reported by Reuters.

“Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” the letter stated.

Cargo carriers like UPS Airlines and FedEx Express also signed the letter, which bluntly stated, “The nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”

United Airlines, in a separate warning also reported by Reuters, noted that C-band 5G coverage, if implemented, could affect more than 15,000 UA flights annually, including 1.25 million passengers and tons of cargo. Cities affected could include Houston, Newark, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

On Monday, airlines had already begun to consider canceling international flights scheduled to land in the U.S. Wednesday, Reuters said.

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The airlines requested that 5G coverage not be deployed within 2 miles of runways at key airports. “Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” the letter said.

The FAA had previously said it cleared an estimated 45% of the U.S. commercial airplane fleet to perform low visibility landings at many airports where 5G C-band is set to be deployed. However, many large airports were missing from the list. Airlines are also concerned that Boeing 777s and some Boeing cargo planes would not be able to land in areas with 5G service.

Both AT&T and Verizon issued statements late Tuesday that they would “voluntarily” agree to temporarily defer the deployment or limit the use of 5G near airports.

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” Verizon said in a statement reported by CNBC.

The FAA told Reuters that the agency “continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try to limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.”

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