5G rollout delayed at airports after concerns it could affect airlines

NOW: 5G rollout delayed at airports after concerns it could affect airlines

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- Wireless networks rolled out their new 5G services this week, but they're not available everywhere, because airlines are concerned that that signal could interfere with planes.

Some airports are seeing flight cancellations because of this, but frequent flyers at South Bend International have said they haven't experienced any issues. 

“I had to get here and took my chances!” laughed Michelle Kane, who came into town to visit her daughter at Notre Dame. 

Cell service providers like Verizon and AT&T rolled out their 5G networks to create better and faster wi-fi connections for their customers, but airlines requested a delay of the rollout, because the signal could interfere with the instruments in airplanes; in particular, the altimeter, which informs pilots of their altitude, a necessary tool for landing aircraft in low-visibility conditions. 

Airlines worried this would cause flight cancellations or delays-- with the potential of costing millions of dollars-- and some companies, like Air Emirates, Lufthansa and British Airways, announced they would change flight schedules at major airports like Chicago O'Hare. 

But at South Bend International, travelers have said their flights have run smoothly. 

“They mentioned to make sure we had our cell phones turned off because it might interfere," said Kane. "But that was all that was really mentioned of it.”

“There wasn’t much worry from me or anyone else I noticed," added Kevin Frost, just coming back from a trip to Georgia. 

The 5G rollout has now been delayed for cell towers near airports, until the FCC and the FAA can determine the best route forward. 

Frost, who flies once a month for work, said part of the reason he's not worried about the rollout is because of this new delay. 

“Knowing that they weren’t going to just roll out and let the chips fall where they may, and actually working through a solution was pretty good in keeping that anxiety at rest," he said.

Even with the concerns from airlines, he doesn't see this keeping people from flying. 

“If people are gonna fly, they’re gonna continue to do so," he added. "It’s one of those things that’s out of our hands as passengers on the plane, and we just trust the airlines to keep us safe up in the air and on the ground and all that.”

The FAA has approved an estimated 78% of the US commercial fleet to land in areas with 5G. 

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