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WASHINGTON: Major US air carriers warned on Wednesday that plans by AT&T and Verizon Communications to use spectrum for 5G wireless services could be highly disruptive to air travel and cost air passengers $1.6 billion annually in delays.

Trade group Airlines for America (A4A) said if a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) directive for addressing potential interference from wireless transmissions had been in effect in 2019 “approximately 345,000 passenger flights, 32 million passengers, and 5,400 cargo flights would have been impacted in the form of delayed flights, diversions, or cancellations.” The wireless carriers are set to begin using the spectrum in just three weeks. Last week, the FAA issued new airworthiness directives warning interference from 5G wireless spectrum could result in flight diversions.

US aviation regulator warns of potential interference from 5G spectrum plan

The aviation industry and FAA have raised significant concerns about potential interference of 5G with sensitive aircraft electronics like radio altimeters. In November, AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay the commercial launch of C-band wireless service until Jan. 5 after the FAA raised concerns. They also adopted precautionary measures for six months to limit interference.

Aviation industry groups said they were insufficient to address air safety concerns. A&T and Verizon did not immediately comment. A4A said the FAA directive would “materially disrupt airline operations” and added cargo operators estimate the directive “would have cost them $400 million annually.”

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