Mediacom Communications, the nation's fifth-largest cable operator with roughly 2.7 million total customers across the Midwest and Southeast, is testing wireless operations in the 3.5GHz CBRS band with equipment from Samsung. The company is testing the equipment in Chester, NY, just down the street from its headquarters in Blooming Grove.
Mediacom declined to comment on the tests beyond its filing on the topic with the FCC.
Mediacom joins a wide range of large and midsized cable operators eyeing the CBRS opportunity. Comcast, Charter Communications, Cox Communications, Midco and others have also registered CBRS tests with the FCC.
Of course, tests aren't necessarily a precursor to commercial wireless service. But the sheer amount of cable interest in the CBRS band -- coupled with cable operators' general interest in public WiFi and some cable operators' launches of smartphone services through MVNOs -- certainly indicates a rising level of interest among cable players in wireless.
That Mediacom is currently testing 3.5GHz CBRS services now is noteworthy considering the US government has largely finished its testing of commercial operations in the band, and initial commercial 3.5GHz launches could happen in the next few weeks. Unfettered access to the unlicensed portion of the band is expected in the third quarter of this year, while access to the licensed portion of the band could happen sometime next year.
However, what's unclear is what Mediacom and other cable operators might actually do with the spectrum. Midco, for its part, has outlined an ambitious plan to use CBRS spectrum to extend the reach of its fiber-powered Internet services via fixed wireless technology. But Comcast, Charter and others have remained mum about what they might do with the spectrum if they do launch commercial services. Options range from full-blown, smartphone-centered mobile services to fixed wireless Internet offerings to private networks for business customers or other uses.
Meantime, both AT&T and Verizon have expressed interest in using the spectrum as well.
According to research firm Dell'Oro Group, the overall CBRS RAN market is expected to grow to a $1 billion opportunity over the next five years.