Google seeks STA for 3550-3650 MHz tests in Philadelphia

In a heavily redacted application, Google is asking the FCC for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to conduct radio tests in the 3550-3650 MHz band in Philadelphia over the course of six months.

Google says the STA is needed to test the transmission of broadband data to mobile devices from fixed locations, but it’s not revealing much beyond that. It said the information that it seeks to keep confidential has significant commercial value.

Plus, it’s entered into agreements with equipment suppliers whereby they agreed information would be held in strict confidence. “The manufacturer name and model number constitutes confidential trade secrets, technical information and business information under the agreements,” Google explained.

The application aims for an operation start date of Oct. 15, 2018, and an end date of April 15, 2019.

In the U.S., the FCC established the 3550-3700 MHZ band, usually referred to as the 3.5 GHz band, for a unique shared use for what’s known as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS). Google has been heavily involved in the CBRS ecosystem since the beginning, contributing to the WinnForum and CBRS Alliance.

In order to make the whole thing work, CBRS requires Spectrum Access System (SAS) administrators that can work together. Google is a conditionally approved SAS administrator with plans to collaborate or partner with equipment vendors, service providers, other SAS administrators and incumbents to deploy an end-to-end CBRS system. Others aiming at official SAS status include Federated Wireless, CommScope, Sony, Amdocs and Key Bridge Wireless.

The FCC recently asked for details from planned SAS administrators about their initial commercial deployment plans. Google said its SAS can support service anywhere in the U.S., but at least initially, it expects discrete deployments in various locations around the country.

On the other hand, fellow SAS administrator contender Federated Wireless revealed (PDF) that it’s ready to turn on CBRS across 15,773 sites in 47 states and the District of Columbia when it gets the green light.

RELATED: Editor’s Corner—Despite controversy over PALs, CBRS is poised for commercial takeoff

Needless to say, the CBRS industry is raring to go in the U.S., as evidenced by the recent CBRS Alliance event at Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles earlier this month. The CBRS Alliance celebrated the results of an interoperability event at CableLabs in Louisville, Colorado, where they had somewhere north of 55 different CBRS combinations. According to the alliance, they ran through test scenarios with a 98% completion rate and no failures, indicating that the ecosystem is ready.

Of course, the FCC is still ruminating over changes to the Priority Access License portion of the band, but the General Authorized Access part, which doesn’t require an auction of licenses, is expected to go commercial this year.

Google expects to start its initial commercial SAS deployment in November if all goes as planned.