Google has been lobbying US regulators for access to unused mobile spectrum that could be used in a small cell network to carry heavy loads of data in high-traffic areas.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is secretly working on a project that may break the stronghold that the traditional carriers have over mobile internet access - not by competing directly with them, but via a secondary network that would operate in the 3.5GHz spectrum band. The band remains largely unused but could one day be used to form the basis for a small cell wi-fi network in large cities.
The Federal Communications Commission is looking at how to use 3.5GHz, having dubbed it the "innovation band".
The FCC released an initial proposal in 2012 for a Citizens Broadband Radio Service that would rely on a spectrum-sharing scheme that would use up to 150MHz of spectrum in the band. Instead of being sliced into 'static' blocks and sold to the highest bidder, the spectrum would be shared dynamically according to need or demand.
Under the scheme, the spectrum would be divided up into three tiers allocated to either federal and non-federal incumbents; priority access licensees (PALs); and an unlicensed tier for general authorised access (GAA), according to Fierce Wireless Tech.
Google hasn't said what kind of role it sees for itself in the scheme, however it has supported others' ideas in fields where it already has experience. One example is dynamical spectrum allocation, which Google's providing for TV white space trials in the US and the UK. That idea was a Spectrum Access System (SAS) to dynamically assign channels - a notion that AT&T strongly opposed.
Google last year also applied to the FCC to test the 3.5GHz band at its Mountain View headquarters and in Washington DC, as noted by consulting engineer Steven Crowley, who's also previously picked up on Google's plans to test a network of LTE base stations in the 2.6GHz range.
The Wall Street Journal also noted that Google recently hired two spectrum experts that could further its wireless plans, including Andrew Clegg, formerly at the National Science Foundation, and ex-DARPA wireless expert Preston Marshall.
The names of Clegg and Milo Medin, Google's VP of access services, appear on applications Google filed with the FCC this week to modify its 3.5GHz experimental license. According to one of the documents, the application relates to Google running propagation tests and testing SAS. The document also outlines that its tests won't interfere with other users on that band, such as the Department of Defense.
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