Charter hints at 25 Mbps fixed wireless speeds using 3.5 GHz in rural areas

Cable company Charter Communications said its initial tests of fixed wireless services in the 3.5 GHz band show that it can provide 25 Mbps services at “significant distances.” Charter previously had disclosed that it is conducting tests of fixed and mobile services in the band, but has not yet offered any details on the results of those tests.

“Charter is currently testing in the 3.5 GHz Band in rural communities to determine the most effective means for deploying in this band, and already has determined that it can provide speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps at significant distances,” the company wrote in a recent FCC filing. The company did not provide specific distances. “Charter plans to continue testing in rural communities to investigate further how to expand the speeds and services it delivers.”

Indeed, Charter hinted thatbased on the results of its testsit may well rely on wireless technologies to expand its overall coverage area.

“The 3.5 GHz Band remains an important component of Charter’s wireless strategy,” the company wrote. “Charter is currently conducting trials in this band to confirm that wireless access technologies at frequencies such as 3.5 GHz could be suitable for rural broadband and providing wireline-like broadband connectivity and speeds. The adoption of appropriate rules that encourage deployment and investment by new entrants will also be a critical element of Charter’s evaluation of 3.5 GHz licenses as part of its overall wireless strategy.”

The FCC is currently considering final rules for providers to offer wireless services in the 3.5 GHz band. The agency is poised to create an innovative spectrum-sharing scheme in the bandand is now considering exactly how to go about issuing spectrum licenses in the band, and how big geographically those licenses should be.

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In its filing, Charter urged the FCC to implement county-sized geographic licensing areas.

“Despite the claims of some commenters who argue that county-sized licenses are too large for rural deployments, Charter’s ongoing system testing using 3.5 GHz spectrum in rural communities has demonstrated speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps at distances that would support such county-sized licenses,” the company wrote.

Charter has made no secret of its wireless ambitions. The company has said it plans to launch an MVNO service through Verizon’s network sometime this year, and separately has been conducting tests of its own wireless network and services, largely in the 3.5 GHz band.

Further, the company has argued that it hopes to use wireless technologies to expand its coverage area, including into rural locations.

“To deliver ubiquitous connectivity to our customers, we will rely increasingly on next generation wireless technologies like 5G, and significantly improve and expand the reach of our wired broadband network,” the company wrote recently on its website. “Charter is actively developing and testing this next gen wireless connectivity in a growing number of markets including Orlando, Florida; Reno, Nevada; Clarksville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; Bakersfield, California; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.”

Indeed, in its recent filing, Charter offered further clarity on those tests. “Charter is currently working with eight different vendors in Tampa, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina for its 3.5 GHz Band mobility use cases, and is also testing fixed wireless solutions in the 3.5 GHz Band in six different markets,” the company wrote. “Charter believes this testing likely will conclude that, with the right rules, the 3.5 GHz Band could be used as a cost effective solution for providing fixed wireless service in rural areas.”