AT&T announces delay of 5G launch near some airports, after request for White House intervention

Some airlines asked the president to intervene, warning that there could be dire consequences to the launch
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AT&T announced on Tuesday that it is delaying the activation of 5G broadband technology on some towers close to airports across the U.S. Airports warned of potentially dire consequences of the rollout, which had been scheduled for Wednesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration warned that the rollout could interfere with instruments used by modern aircraft, therefore forcing airlines to cancel flights. 

The company says that it will work with the aviation industry and the FAA for further guidance.

"At our sole discretion we have voluntarily agreed to temporarily defer turning on a limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the FAA to provide further information about our 5G deployment, since they have not utilized the two years they’ve had to responsibly plan for this deployment," the telecom giant said.

The decision comes after weeks of heightened concerns about 5G's potential disruption of air travel and one day after the chief executives of major U.S. passenger and cargo carriers in an open letter warned of an impending "catastrophic" aviation crisis, including the stranding of tens of thousands of Americans overseas.

The letter was written by the chief executives of Delta Air Lines and American, Southwest and United airlines and others, according to Reuters.

"We are frustrated by the FAA's inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner," an At&T spokeswoman said.

The conglomerate continues to go ahead with launching advanced 5G services in all other initially planned locations. 

Verizon, which was also set to launch its 5G technology Wednesday, also said Tuesday that it would voluntarily limit its rollout near airports.

Prior to Tuesday's announcement, the Biden administration said it was in conversation about the issue with telecom companies, government entities and airlines.