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Cable Tech

Comcast to test mobile, fixed operations in C-band ahead of auction

Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, said it intends to test transmissions in C-band spectrum ahead of the FCC's auction of spectrum in the band in December.

"The proposed field test will evaluate coverage, throughput and mobility of equipment and facilities that operate in the C-band to obtain data and advance the company's understanding of the full potential of technology and equipment operational in this band," Comcast wrote of its plans.

The company said it would conduct the tests near its headquarters in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Comcast did not provide any further details about its planned tests in its request for permission with the FCC, including what kinds of devices it would test and which vendors would supply equipment for the effort. Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung all plan to sell C-band equipment.

Comcast's desire to test transmissions in the C-band further reflects the company's interest in obtaining additional spectrum licenses. Comcast already owns licenses in the 600MHz and CBRS bands, and is widely expected to use those holdings to build a wireless network for its Xfinity Mobile MVNO service in select locations. Doing so would allow Comcast to reduce its MVNO payments to Verizon by shifting Xfinity Mobile traffic off of Verizon's network and onto its own network.

Comcast is one of 74 entities that have registered interest in the FCC's planned C-band auction. The C-band bidding entity called "C&C Wireless Holding Company" appears to be a 50/50 joint venture between Comcast and Charter Communications, at least according to the financial analysts at Raymond James, New Street Research and Evercore. Neither company has directly confirmed this to Light Reading in response to our questions.

Comcast, bidding as XF Wireless Investment, spent $459 million for 830 licenses in the CBRS spectrum auction that ended this summer.

Many expect the C-band auction to dramatically overshadow the CBRS auction because there is much more spectrum up for grabs in the C-band auction and fewer limits on transmissions in the band. Indeed, some analysts expect the C-band auction to become the FCC's biggest auction ever. The analysts at New Street believe bidders will dole out a total of $51 billion in bids, about $21 billion more than what is predicted by the analysts at Raymond James. And FierceWireless reported that the analysts at Morgan Stanley Research last month raised their C-band expectations to around $26 billion, with their high-end estimates at $35.2 billion.

Comcast is not the only company testing operations in the C-band ahead of the auction. Both Verizon and T-Mobile have also requested FCC permission to test operations in the band.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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