Aerospace Industry Leaders Warn Against 5G Rollout

Anticipating an expanded 5G plan by Verizon and AT&T, Boeing and Airbus CEOs urge the Biden administration to delay it

Aerospace Industry Leaders Warn Against 5G Rollout
A Boeing logo at the company's facility in Everett, Wash., on Jan. 21, 2020. (Lindsey Wasson/Reuters)
Nicholas Dolinger

The CEOs of the two largest commercial jet manufacturers in the United States warned against the deployment of expanded 5G mobile broadband technology, in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.

Dave Calhoun of Boeing and Jeffrey Knittel of Airbus Americas expressed concern on Dec. 20 about a plan by Verizon and AT&T to roll out the new technology on Jan. 5, 2022, and urged the Biden administration to intervene to postpone the adoption of the new network.

"5G interference could adversely affect the ability of aircraft to safely operate," the letter reads.

The letter echoed concerns from a report published last year that concluded that 5G constitutes a serious concern for the integrity of aircraft systems. Because 5G signals often broadcast at frequencies similar to those used by flight systems such as radio altimeters, industry leaders and regulators are concerned that expanding 5G networks will result in flight delays or safety concerns.
Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration released airworthiness directives specifically addressing concerns with 5G. While the FAA expressed enthusiasm that the new technology can coexist with safe air travel, it also voiced a number of reservations about the potential for 5G to interfere with airplane radio altimeter systems.
In recent years, 5G internet has attracted publicity and controversy as telecommunications industry leaders have taken great strides to make the technology more ubiquitous. Skeptics have expressed concern about potential unforeseen health consequences of the proliferation of ambient 5G frequencies.
Furthermore, critics have expressed concern that 5G will become the catalyst for a major transition in the labor market, with some even warning of a "jobs apocalypse" ensuing from the widespread adoption of the technology, which is seen as instrumental in drastically expanding the scope of automation.

5G relies in part on millimeter waves, which have a much shorter range than the microwaves which have been used for 4G internet. This specification demands cell towers every few hundred meters wherever 5G is implemented, exposing multitudes of people to millimeter-wave radiation at close range.

The Jan. 5 date is itself a postponement from a previously planned rollout on Dec. 5, which was also protested by airlines and the FAA. The executives behind the Dec. 20 letter are hoping that they can defer the adoption of expanded 5G again, but they are likely to encounter a great deal of resistance, with AT&T and Verizon intent on executing the plan.