UPDATE, via The Associated Press:

AT&T will postpone new wireless service near some airports planned for this week after the nation’s largest airlines said the service would interfere with aircraft technology and cause massive flight disruptions.

The company said Tuesday it would delay turning on new cell towers around runways at some airports — it did not say how many — and work with federal regulators to settle a dispute over potential interference from new 5G service.

Original story below:

The nation’s biggest airlines wrote a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Monday warning that a “catastrophic” aviation crisis will occur later this week if Verizon and AT&T roll out their new 5G services as planned.

The New York Times explains:

High-speed 5G internet uses so-called C-band frequencies close to those used by aircraft to measure their altitude. The airlines say the technology can interfere with the instruments and create a serious safety hazard.

Verizon and AT&T are planning to debut their new 5G services on Wednesday. They claim that the aviation industry has had years to upgrade their equipment to avoid interference and that other countries have deployed C-Band 5G without creating aviation issues.

But in their letter, carriers including Delta, American, United, UPS, and Fedex warn that “the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt” and “tens of thousands of Americans” could be stranded overseas if the federal government doesn’t intervene.

“Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable causing a much larger problem than what we knew… Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded” the letter says.

The airlines want the new 5G service prohibited within two miles of 50 major airports.

“Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies,” they wrote.

In a statement on Monday, the F.A.A. said it “will continue to keep the traveling public safe as wireless companies deploy 5G” and “continues to work with the aviation industry and wireless companies to try and limit 5G-related flight delays and cancellations.”

Engadget provides key background:

The letter is the latest development in the ongoing back and forth between the airline and wireless industries. AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon spent nearly $80 billion at the start of 2021 to secure the repurposed C-Band spectrum the FCC had put up for auction. In November, AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay their C-Band rollouts to January 5th to help the FAA address any interference concerns. They later proposed limiting the power output of cell towers close to airports and agreed to a further two-week delay on January 4th.