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Why 5G could lead to ‘catastrophic’ disruption for airline flights

Could 5G become a major problem for airlines?

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A passenger uses a laptop.

A passenger uses a laptop aboard a commercial airline flight from Boston to Atlanta on July 1, 2017. Could the launch of 5G cellphone service impact the airline industry?

Bill Sikes, Associated Press

The launch of 5G service could create “catastrophic” disruption for airlines across the country, leaving “tens of thousands of Americans” stranded and plenty of flights grounded, airline leaders said Monday, Reuters reports.

The news: Multiple CEOs of major airline carriers wrote a letter to U.S. transportation and economic officials ahead of the planned launch of the new C-Band 5G service from telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon on Wednesday, NBC News report.

  • The airlines warned that the 5G signals could create interference with safety equipment for pilots when trying to land and take off.

Why it matters: 5G is set to launch across the United States, improving cellphone service for millions of Americans. However, better cellphone service could come at the cost of unsafe flights.

What they’re saying: “Unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded,” the leaders wrote, per NBC News.

  • “To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt.”
  • “Multiple modern safety systems on aircraft will be deemed unusable.”
  • “Airplane manufacturers have informed us that there are huge swaths of the operating fleet that may need to be indefinitely grounded,” the letter read, according to The New York Times.
  • “Immediate intervention is needed to avoid significant operational disruption to air passengers, shippers, supply chain and delivery of needed medical supplies.”


Details: The leaders include chief executives from American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue.

  • The letter was sent to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, and White House National Economic Council director Brian Deese, per Reuters.

Next up: The leaders called for the economic officials to make it so that 5G technology can’t work within two miles of 50 major airports in the U.S., according to The New York Times.

Yes, but: The c-band 5G spectrum has been released in about 40 different countries and there have not been any failures reported yet, per The Verge.