5G could cause ‘catastrophic’ disruption to airlines leaving 'tens of thousands stranded'

A letter sent by US industry chiefs said deploying new 5G mobile internet services could ground flights and 'potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas'

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Hours before AT&T and Verizon are set to turn on new 5G services, senior figures of major US airlines in the United States have warned of a potential “catastrophic” crisis for aviation.

A letter sent by US industry chiefs said deploying new 5G mobile internet services could ground flights and "potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas", leading to “chaos”.

"We are writing with urgency to request that 5G be implemented everywhere in the country except within the approximate 2 miles of airport runways as defined by the FAA," wrote chief executives of American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and six other passenger and cargo carriers, reported AFP.

In the letter to US transport secretary and failed presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the warnings said “unless our major hubs are cleared to fly, the vast majority of the traveling and shipping public will essentially be grounded."

Concerns in the United States are based around the frequencies used by high-speed 5G, with the Federal Aviation Administration saying that interference with aircraft systems may include but are not limited to altimeters and the ability to operative in low visibility conditions.

In the US the tech uses so-called C-band frequencies close to those used by aircraft to measure their altitude

“This means that on a day like yesterday, more than 1,100 flights and 100,000 passengers would be subjected to cancellations, diversions or delays," the letter said.

The two telecommunication companies argued that the airlines had years to upgrade the equipment that might be directly affected, reported the New York Times.

Although some airlines had reported they were potentially considering cancelling some international flights, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee asked AT&T and Verizon to consider delaying some 5G deployments scheduled for Wednesday, around some US airport runways, reported AFP.