5G Could Cause Problems for the Airline Industry
Yet Another Challenge for Airlines
As if the airline industry wasn’t dealing with enough already as COVID-19 cases rise, it is now worrying about interference from 5G wireless services. Executives at the nation’s leading airlines, including Southwest (LUV), say 5G services being introduced by providers like AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) could lead to massive issues for airlines.
Aviation industry leaders say 5G services could interfere with sensitive plane and helicopter equipment like electronics and radio altimeters, making it impossible to land in low visibility. As a result, more flights would be delayed or canceled when bad weather struck. The White House, regulators, and industry trade groups are having a difficult time reaching an agreement about this issue.
Airline Industry Can’t Handle More Delays
The stakes are high for the airline industry which has not only dealt with shutdowns during the early days of the pandemic but with massive spikes in demand that were difficult to handle. In the fall, Southwest canceled over 2,000 flights in one weekend amid pilot shortages and bad weather. The industry estimates cancellations and delayed flights because of 5G interfering with planes could cost as much as $2.1 billion in flight disruptions.
During a Senate hearing last week, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the near-term 5G deployment is his biggest concern. The Airlines for America trade group also raised worries, predicting that 5G service could cause disruptions for 350,000 flights per year.
Wireless Companies Are Winning … So Far
The aviation industry wants 5G power levels to be more restricted near airports, but mobile providers, the White House, and the FCC don’t seem open to that. While talks are ongoing with the White House and the FCC, the aviation industry expects disruptions to ensue next year.
Wireless companies, which paid $81 billion for the rights to the airwaves in question, say issues will not be nearly as bad as airlines are claiming. Wireless providers say 5G is safe and does not interfere with aviation in the roughly 40 countries which have already deployed the technology. In the coming weeks, debates about this issue will continue.
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