By Kelly Werthmann

DENVER (CBS4)– Verizon and AT&T are delaying the launch of their 5G technology near some airports just a day before their planned rollouts. The delays come after chief executives of America’s largest airlines warned of “catastrophic disruption” to travel and shipping operations should the technology not be limited around U.S. airports, saying the 5G service signals could interfere with airplane instruments.

(credit: CBS)

“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” AT&T said in a statement.

Verizon said its technology, which is intended to increase speed, reliability and power for more than 90 million Americans, will launch Wednesday as planned, but with a temporary limit around airports.

“When it comes to safety, there is no calendar. You get it done, you get it done right, or you don’t do it,” Captain Dennis Tajer of the Allied Pilots Association told CBS News.

The CEOs of the major airlines all signed a letter warning that the new 5G services near airports could cause them to ground half of the flights, resulting in major travel delays.

“Why did the airline industry wait so long?” Ken Fellman, a Colorado attorney who specialized in telecommunications, said.

Fellman was involved in the negotiations back in 2017 when the state-approved installation of wireless infrastructure to support 5G. He told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann no one from the airline industry was there.

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“None of those folks were there when our own legislature was passing laws to make it easier to deploy 5G,” he said.

As for who’s to blame for this 5G debacle – Fellman casts some on the FCC for rushing the rollout, but also questions why it seems the FAA only recently started raising safety concerns.

“Where were they when the FCC was changing the law four or 5 years ago? Where were they when the state legislature was changing the law in 2017? They weren’t there,” he said. “We’ve been doing things to promote 5G and the [wireless] industry has been pushing it hard… and we’re hearing from [the airlines] in 2021, 2022.”

President Joe Biden thanked the companies for the temporary delay, saying it “protects flight safety and allows aviation operations to continue without significant disruption and will bring more high-speed internet options to millions of Americans.”

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about supply chain bottlenecks in the East Room of the White House on October 13, 2021 in Washington, DC. With the holiday season approaching, President Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles will begin to operate 24 hours a day in efforts to relieve the backlog in the supply chain that delivers goods to the United States. Americans have seen delays in a host of consumer goods, including electronics, cars, lumber, toys and more.

Joe Biden (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The White House said it is now working with AT&T, Verizon and the airlines to solve the issues.

CBS4 received this statement from Denver International Airport: DEN is not among the airports included in this initial rollout and we do not have a 5G tower near us. Thanks to visionaries like Federico Peña who chose our location, we are removed from the urban core and the impacts we could experience are very different than those at other airports. That being said, impacts at other airports may affect DEN and could result in flight cancellations or diversions. We are working closely with our airline partners and will continue to support them as needed.

Kelly Werthmann