The 5G rollout in the United States hasn't been quite as smooth as some had hoped for. One development that continues to delay the full rollout of 5G in the U.S. -- and caused a flurry of worrying headlines in the lead up to the official deployment of 5G in mid-January -- are concerns about potential interference with certain aviation systems. In this segment of Backstage Pass, recorded on Jan. 19, Fool contributors Rachel Warren, Jose Najarro, Danny Vena, and Trevor Jennewine discuss.
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Rachel Warren: Earlier this week, major U.S. airlines released warnings that AT&T (T -0.40%) and Verizon (VZ -0.36%), their 5G rollout scheduled for today. They were saying that would cause major disruptions and could ground planes, halt global travel, bring commerce, and essentially the economy to a halt.
They were saying that this new 5G service that could make some of their aircraft unusable, a significant number, in fact, can strand Americans overseas. There's concerns that have been cited from the FAA that it could impact sensitive airplane instruments like altimeters, which are very important when flying in low visibility areas.
Long story, short Verizon and AT&T, they're delaying deployment within two miles of airports. Delay being the operative word. You had some major international airlines that actually switched planes or canceled flights to the U.S. today. What do you guys think about this? Does this concern you at all what it means for the future state of the economy and supply chain or do you think these guys will work it out? Jose.
Jose Najarro: I think they'll work it out. I don't think one should hold up innovation. I don't think this is the first time these airline companies have heard about it. But I think they're making it seem like, well, if we do this is going to be bad. I think obviously to the end of the day, 5G could help some of these planes.
In the short term, it could cause some form of issues, but I do think these planes would be upgraded to some extent, so they will not be affected by this 5G deployment. Again, I think this would overall improve, maybe short-term it might create some form of negativity, longer-term I think it's a great move.
Trevor Jennewine: I completely agree. I think short-term headwinds are short-term turbulence, but long-term a positive thing and they'll figure it out.
Danny Vena: This is something I'm willing to let the scientists figure out. I'm not a scientist. I have heard reports that some of the technologies they use in the U.S. is slightly different than the technology they use in Europe, which is why folks are saying, "Well, they're using it in Europe, so it should be fine here."
I don't have a degree in that, and so I think it's fine if they just basically figure out how to make it work and they don't necessarily have to roll out 5G within two miles of airports in order for the majority of customers to get the service that they're used to.
Warren: Yeah. I know there's been a lot of criticism about why hasn't the FAA figured this out sooner, and then they're mad at these big companies like AT&T and Verizon. I do know there's been a lot of comparison.
In Europe, for example, I know a lot of the installations that have happened in Europe where 5G has been deployed widely for some time now. In some places, the band level is lower, but it'll be interesting to see what happens with this.
I think they'll figure it out. Hope they figure it out sooner rather than later, but definitely an interesting story to watch.