June 26, 2023
U.S. airlines are faced with potential disruptions during the summer travel peak, as the deadline of July 1 looms for planes to update equipment to avoid 5G interference.
On July 1, wireless network providers including AT&T and Verizon plan to increase their 5G network capacity to higher power levels. These new levels will likely impact airplanes’ altimeters, which provide information on a plane’s height above the ground and are crucial for landing during poor visibility and bad weather.
After this deadline, aircraft without updated equipment will not be cleared to land during low visibility.
According to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigeig, more than 80% of the domestic fleet and about 65% of international aircraft that fly to the U.S. have carried out the upgrade, the Wall Street Journal reported.
However, he added that the risk of flight cancellation remained high, with delays and cancellations being one of the biggest concerns this summer.
The matter has sparked contention since its inception, with industry members saying the deadline of July 1 is too soon to ensure all planes can be updated.
Last year airline industry members warned of potentially “catastrophic” impacts on the aviation industry as a result of the 5G rollout, saying it could cause significant interference with equipment. Verizon and AT&T agreed to delay the rollout in response to concerns, though opposition in the aviation industry has continued.
Despite the backlash, both the Biden Administration and Federal Aviation Administration confirmed in May that they would not be extending the July 1 deadline.
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