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More Air Travel Nightmare as Carriers Respond to 5G Rollout Delay

U.S. air travelers are likely to face more turbulence as carriers around the world cancel flights in and out of the country following the initial rollout of 5G networks.

U.S. air travelers are likely to face more turbulence Wednesday as carriers around the world cancel flights in and out of the country following the initial rollout of 5G networks by AT&T (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report and Verizon (VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report.

The companies said they will launch 5G or fifth-generation service Wednesday, but that they will delay turning on certain 5G cell towers within a two-mile radius of runways designated by federal officials. They did not say how long they would keep those towers idle.

The decision is a compromise between the airlines and the telecommunications giants, who have been sparring over delaying the 5G rollout.  

The new high-speed wireless service uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by altimeters, which are devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground. Altimeters are used to help pilots land when visibility is poor, and they link to other systems on planes.

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U.S. airlines including United Airlines (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report, American Airlines (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report, Delta Air Lines (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report and others have expressed concern that the 5G could interfere with aircraft electronics, causing "catastrophic" disruptions.

Dubai-based Emirates airline on Tuesday said it will cancel flights to Boston, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Newark, Orlando, San Francisco or Seattle as of Jan. 19 due to concerns over the 5G rollout. 

For their part, AT&T and Verizon have insisted their equipment will not interfere with aircraft signals or operations, and that the technology is being safely used in 40 other countries.

Even with the concession by the telecommunications companies, federal officials said there could be some cancellations and delays because of limitations of equipment on certain planes, in particular those made by Boeing (BA) - Get Boeing Company Report

Delta Air Lines also said there could be issues with flights operating in bad weather because of airport restrictions that regulators issued last week, when the 5G rollout appeared to be on schedule.