An FAA deal to pause 5G signal transmissions at 50 U.S. airports will help Akron-Canton Airport resolve lingering concerns about potential disruptions from the cellphone towers, a CAK official said Wednesday.
“For the length of the buffer time, it’s buying us time,” said Lisa Dalpiaz, the airport’s vice president of marketing and air service development.
The 5G delay could last as long as six months, but Dalpiaz said the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t confirmed how long the buffer zone will continue at the Green airport.
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The agreement by AT&T and Verizon to delay 5G transmissions at Akron-Canton and the other airports comes after years of unsuccessful efforts to resolve safety issues surrounding the cell towers. The 5G transmissions may interfere with altimeter equipment used by planes that is essential to safe landing procedures — especially in inclement weather.
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AT&T and Verizon have spent years and billions of dollars developing and implementing the upgrades to their cellphone networks, but a solution to the altimeter problem has proven elusive.
On Wednesday, AT&T began implementing so-called 5G+ service in several markets, promising faster service and connections. Major markets in Florida, Texas, Illinois and Michigan were first in line for the rollout of the new service.
A company statement emailed Wednesday to the Akron Beacon Journal said the FAA has dragged its feet on the issue as cell towers went up and 5G+ service day approached.
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“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 statement reads.
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Contacted by email, the FAA referred to a statement issued Tuesday by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and a graphic of 5G deployment in the U.S. and France. In his provided quote, Buttigieg promised to work with wireless companies to resolve the issue.
Chris Oswald, a senior vice president with the Airports Council International - North America, said via email the airport trade organization has called on the Biden Administration to delay 5G implementation, the most recent request on Jan. 13.
The organization is concerned about the signals interfering with aircraft instruments, especially radio altimeters.
“The U.S. Government had multiple opportunities over several years to work out reasonable plans for 5G operations,” Oswald said. “Instead, it chose to ignore repeated credible warnings from the aviation industry about the detrimental impacts these operations would have…”
The primary concern is the loss of low visibility approach capability used in rain and fog, Oswald said.
“We’ve already seen several flights and thousands of passengers, and tons of cargo affected by 5G-related cancellations today by international air carriers for this reason even before 5G networks are operational,” he said.
Airlines in India, Japan and the United Arab Emirates have canceled flights at several U.S. airports. No U.S. airlines have done so, but Delta Air Lines warned late Tuesday that weather-related flight cancellations are a possibility as the 5G network rolls out.
Late Wednesday, the FAA issued Alternative Methods of Compliance, or AMOCs, allowing about 62% of the U.S. commercial fleet to land at airports where AT&T and Verizon 5G towers operate. The AMOCs involve testing altimeter systems to see whether they can operate without disruption from 5G antennas.
The agency warned, however, that flights at some airports will still be affected.
"Passengers should check with their airlines for [the] latest flight schedules." the FAA said.
In response to the FAA's changes, the ACI - North America informed members that the new AMOCs improve the 5G dilemma, but significant challenges remain.
"Note that there still are important components of the commercial aircraft fleet — as well as business, general aviation, and military aircraft — that do not have AMOCs and may not qualify for them," the organization advised. "Accordingly, increased potential for low visibility-caused disruptions remain."
No signal-related cancellations so far at CAK
Dalpiaz said Akron-Canton Airport has, so far, not been significantly affected by such concerns.
“We haven’t had any cancellations, because the 5G technology hasn’t rolled out,” she said.
Delta Airlines is one of several airlines that operate at the airport, and others at Akron-Canton have expressed concerns. Dalpiaz said the airport is working with them as the 5G situation evolves.
“Safety is paramount,” Dalpiaz said. “[We are] making sure we have the safest environment possible for all users at the airport.”
Dalpiaz said the airport is rebounding from a pandemic-plagued 2020 with increased passenger traffic in 2021 and new routes this year.
“Operations are going really well,” she said. “Breeze just announced today that they will start using their Airbus A220 [and] that will start March 4.”
On March 2, Allegiant Air will begin offering non-stop routes to several Florida cities.
“We’re definitely seeing growth again,” she said.
She said the airport has expressed its concerns to regulators about the 5G issue and will continue to monitor developments.
“It’s definitely a hot topic that’s getting a lot of attention right now,” she said.
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron-Canton Airport, 49 others on list to delay 5G network rollout