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US authorities have asked telecom operators AT&T and Verizon to delay the launch of their 5G networks, which had already been rescheduled, for up to two weeks, amid uncertainty about possible interference with vital flight equipment.

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The roll-out of high-speed mobile broadband technology, initially scheduled for December 5th, had already been delayed and was due to take place on January 5th. But European plane makers Airbus and American Boeing have recently expressed “concern” about possible interference from 5G in radio altimeters, devices that planes use to measure altitude.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration chief Steve Dickson made their request in a letter sent Friday to AT&T and Verizon, two of the country’s largest telecommunications operators.

The official letter asked companies to “continue pausing the introduction of commercial C-band service”, the frequency level used for 5G, “for an additional short period of no more than two weeks after the currently scheduled implementation date for January 5”.

Companies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US officials assured companies that the 5G service could start operating “as planned in January, with certain exceptions around priority airports.”

In that regard, they said their priority was “to protect the safety of flights while ensuring that 5G deployment and aviation operations can safely coexist.”

Last February, Verizon and AT&T received authorization to start using frequency bands from 3.7 to 3.8 GHz on December 5, after obtaining licenses worth tens of billions of dollars. But after Airbus and Boeing’s concerns about possible interference were raised, the launch date was pushed back to January.

The FAA asked for more information about the equipment and issued guidelines limiting the use of altimeters in certain situations, raising fears among airlines about the possible costs.

When Verizon and AT&T wrote to federal authorities in November to confirm their intention to begin implementing 5G in January, they said they would take additional precautions beyond those required by US law until July 2022 while the FAA completes its investigation.

The conflict between 5G networks and aircraft equipment led French authorities to recommend in February that passengers on board turn off their cell phones with this technology.

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