Amazon said it plans to expand testing in the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band, but the company continues to keep the details of those tests under the cloak of secrecy. However, many of the new locations where Amazon is testing networks in the band are near its corporate offices.
E-commerce giant Amazon has previously signaled its interest in wireless networks running in the 3.5GHz CBRS band. IEEE Spectrum reported last year of several Amazon requests to test 3.5GHz operations in two locations in California. Then, just last month, the company said it would conduct 3.5GHz tests in Sunnyvale, Calif., which GeekWire noted is where Amazon’s Lab126 product development subsidiary is headquartered. The publication noted that Amazon's Lab126 is where the company developed products such as itsKindle ebook readers and Kindle Fire tablets.
In its latest filing to the FCC requesting permission to conduct additional tests, Amazon acknowledged that it's planning to "conduct preliminary tests near its facilities located in Sunnyvale, California, so that it could obtain sufficient data to determine whether to continue and expand its research into CBRS technologies at other locations." The company said it is requesting permission to conduct additional tests "so that it will be prepared to expand its research as necessary to three other locations (in Arlington, VA; Herndon, VA; and Seattle, WA) and to continue its research at its initial location in Sunnyvale." The locations in Herndon and Seattle that are listed in Amazon's application are near its corporate offices, but the location listed in Arlington is in the Crystal City neighborhood near the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and does not appear to be near any Amazon offices.
Companies that file testing requests with the FCC typically do not provide details beyond the applications themselves.
However, Amazon's tests could be related to its plans to offer cloud-native, private mobile networks in the CBRS band to developers, telecom operators, public sector operators, enterprises and others "for quick deployment of Industrial IoT applications, such as real-time surveillance, smart meters and worker safety monitoring." The company announced that offering -- along with partners Athonet, CommScope's Ruckus and Federated Wireless -- at its AWS re:Invent event last year.
Indeed, a number of wireless players are eyeing the private wireless network opportunity in the 3.5GHz band and other spectrum bands. Such networks promise to offer dedicated mobile services to the likes of utilities, mining companies and others that are not dependent on public wireless networks from the likes of AT&T and Verizon.
The FCC is widely expected to approve initial commercial deployments in the CBRS band in the coming days. The 3.5GHz band has been hailed as "Goldilocks spectrum" because it offers just the right balance between coverage and capacity. Due to the propagation characteristics of transmissions in mid-band spectrum like the CBRS band, signals can travel for miles and penetrate buildings while also carrying a significant amount of data. The same cannot be said for transmissions in low-band spectrum (which can cover large geographic areas but can't transmit much data) or high-band spectrum (which can't cover large geographic areas but can transmit huge amounts of data).
The CBRS band will first be opened to unlicensed uses, but the FCC recently said it would hold 3.5GHz spectrum auctions starting in June of 2020, paving the way for 70MHz of licensed operations to run next to the half of the band that's dedicated to unlicensed operations.
Amazon isn't alone in testing CBRS operations. For example, Ericsson plans to demonstrate CBRS operations at the upcoming MWC Americas trade show in Los Angeles, while Sercomm hopes to demo CBRS at the SCTE cable show in New Orleans.