FAA, wireless carriers hash out problems with C-band, altimeters

The talks between wireless carriers and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are continuing as efforts to replace old altimeters are underway.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that FAA officials are meeting today with telecom and airline industry officials in a push to retrofit and ultimately replace some airplane radio altimeters that could face interference from C-band 5G wireless service.

Earlier this year, Verizon and AT&T agreed to temporary buffer zones around certain airports and limited power levels due to concerns that C-band gear would interfere with altimeters used to fly aircraft. An altimeter measures the height of the aircraft above terrain immediately below it. Temporary mitigation measures were to be in place until July 5.

According to Reuters, the FAA wants to use today’s meeting to establish "an achievable timeframe to retrofit/replace radar altimeters in the U.S. fleet," according to a previously unreported letter from the FAA's top aviation safety official Chris Rocheleau. It also asked aviation representatives "to offer options and commit to actions necessary to meet these objectives."

A Verizon representative confirmed that it is part of today’s discussions. AT&T did not immediately respond to Fierce’s inquiry, but it’s also been involved.

Last week, both carriers were optimistic that differences would get resolved and said they were encouraged by the way the conversations were going.

Both Verizon and AT&T bought C-band 3.7 GHz licenses to deploy 5G and compete with T-Mobile, which acquired copious amounts of 2.5 GHz spectrum through its acquisition of Sprint. (That said, T-Mobile is still angling to ascertain more in Auction 108.)

Whether carriers end up paying for altimeter upgrades isn’t clear. CTIA declined to comment today.

Last week, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the C-band continues to be a top concern. During a Senate committee hearing, he said the issues wouldn’t be completely resolved by this summer.