Mid-band 5G near airports delayed again because reasons

Forgive me for being a cynic when it comes to airlines. I’ve very little good to say about airlines. They charge high rates, work their employees to the bone, and in the end provide very little more than a bus service in the sky. And I’ll absolutely believe they’re crying wolf if and when they say cell signals might affect pilots and their ability to operate safely.

After all, they told us for over a decade that we had to turn our phones off. Not that anyone did, of course. Then they told us that it was ok to use airplane mode, which no one did. Now they tell us that you literally need to use your phone, and their Wi-Fi, to buy things on the plane or watch movies on demand. I know flying is a serious and potentially deadly business. But the hypocrisy is a bit much sometimes, don’t you think?

Supposedly mid-band 5G will kill us all

AT&T and Verizon are rolling out mid-band 5G networks that will offer speeds higher than most Americans get right now using nationwide 5G. Mid-band 5G can be deployed on normal cell towers, so it’s likely to be a big part of your life in the future. That is, if the airlines allow it.

Airlines have told the FCC and FAA that mid-band 5G messes with their navigation equipment. They even threw a hissy fit and threatened to ground all planes everywhere if the technology was rolled out near airports. The FCC worked with cell carriers and established a zone around airports where mid-band 5G won’t be implemented for now. It looks like there’s a new agreement where AT&T and Verizon won’t put their mid-band towers into use near airports until July, 2023. In the meantime the FAA will work with airlines to 5G-proof their equipment, if that is even necessary.

What I want to know is…

I’ve been hearing about mid-band 5G for several years. Did the airlines just think it wasn’t going to happen? It seems so. If they can upgrade their equipment to fix the problem in 12 months, why didn’t they do it 12 months ago? I get it, this costs money. I’m not 100% convinced that it’s a real problem, but let’s say it is. Sorry airlines, you should be updating your equipment on the regular anyway. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a plane, that’s true. But from what I see these things are getting pretty beat up. It’s clear from this regular, average person that maintenance is being skipped. If this is what it takes to make sure planes are safe, do it already!

And stop whining about how expensive it’s going to be. I know flying costs money. Jet fuel is outrageously expensive. Everything is outrageously expensive. If airlines actually treated their customers more fairly and stopped whining about fake problems that don’t exist, maybe they could charge more.

Weighing fast browsing against safety

No one is saying that using your phone in 5G mode is as important as getting to your destination safely. Certainly no one is saying 5G is more important. But the two things can coexist. Airlines can stop whining and look ahead at what’s coming. It seems to me that they ignored the issue and are now looking for handouts from the FAA to fix the problem. This industry has a long way to go in rebuilding trust from its customers and it starts with being honest and responsible.

I’ll be watching, and I’m willing to bet the airlines will be asking for another handout, and another delay, in July of 2023. All the while, they’ll be raising plane fares and getting rid of even more services. Mark my words.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.