Still Not “Cleared” for Takeoff? Procrastination and Bureaucracy Bungle the 5G Rollout

By at 24 January, 2022, 11:03 am

By Karen Kerrigan –

So, 2022 is supposed to be a big year for 5G!

Well, we’ll see. The airlines and regulators were supposed to be working out their late-in-the-game concerns with wireless providers on spectrum use, but on January 17 the airlines fired off yet another missive to the Biden Administration warning of “catastrophic disruptions” if 5G technology is allowed to move forward in the C-band spectrum as it was supposed to last week.

In response, wireless providers AT&T and Verizon again deferred (as they have been doing since early December 2021) turning on their 5G technology near certain airport runways to (as AT&T says in their statement) “work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment.”

AT&T added that the company is launching their advanced 5G services “everywhere else as planned with the temporary exception of this limited number of towers.”

Dennis Roberson, a former member and Chair of the Federal Communication Commission’s Technical Advisory Committee, writes that this unfortunate and expensive standoff is one that never should have happened.

The bottom line as explained by Roberson, is that this is all very fixable. The airlines need to update their equipment. Again, this is something they had two years to do.

In a recent Small Business Insider blog post, I cover some additional background on this issue and counter the scary claims made by the airlines:

“This issue – the safety of C-band’s co-existence – has been exhaustively studied for over a decade in the U.S., and internationally for 17 years! Nearly 40 countries use 5G in the C-band and there has been no impact on aviation safety.”

None-the-less, in response to the unsupported claims made by the FAA and aviation industry, the wireless industry took the high road and volunteered to delay 5G rollout using the C-band from an early-December launch date to early January, and will take additional precautionary action, including the adoption of C-Band radio exclusion zones that are used in France, which are the most cautious in the world.” 

And I note what is at stake for small businesses and our economy:

“The acceleration to all things digital in the U.S. is pushing new business creation and innovations, both of which will be muted and undermined without the transformative connectivity and tools provided by 5G. If there was ever a time that entrepreneurs, small businesses and consumers needed 5G, it is now.”

But here we are, in mid-January. Is a resolution forthcoming? Will government leaders quickly move on the issue? It seems like the airlines keep moving the goal posts, and will continue doing so it not called into account and offer to be a part of the solution. To close on some good news, it appears as though the matter has reached all the right people at the White House and within the Biden Administration, and with a new National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) head in place, perhaps a resolution will come very soon. There’s no reason why it should not. If 40 or more other countries and their governments have found a way to allow the safe flight of U.S. aircraft in and out of these countries – with the approval of the FAA – it seems this is something we can do right here in the USA.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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