Viaero, Airspan hint at fixed wireless C-band ambitions

Viaero – a US wireless network operator serving rural parts of Nebraska, Colorado and Kansas – appears to have some interesting ambitions when it comes to the C-band.

Specifically, the company recently asked the FCC for permission to test operations in the C-band spectrum in a number of locations across rural Colorado with equipment from Airspan and BEC Technologies.

Officials from the companies did not respond to questions on the topic from Light Reading, which is not a surprise considering the FCC has imposed a "quiet period" ahead of its pending C-band spectrum auction to prevent collusion among bidders.

Nonetheless, the test request from Viaero again underscores operator interest in the C-band auction; Viaero is among the 57 qualified bidders for the event.

And the company's C-band test application could hint at what Viaero might want to do with C-band spectrum licenses if it is successful in the auction.

Although Viaero did not provide many details about its plans in its C-band testing request, the company did ask for authorization to transmit signals in C-band spectrum (specifically in 3.7GHz-3.8GHz) using up to five Airspan basestations. The Airspan model number listed in the filing matches a product from the company intended for fixed and mobile services that work in both C-band spectrum and the recently auctioned 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band.

Importantly, Viaero spent around $15 million for CBRS spectrum in the FCC's auction this summer, gaining more than 500 licenses in portions of Colorado and Kansas.

Finally, Viaero's application also lists 50 customer premises equipment (CPE) routers from BEC for fixed wireless access services that can be installed on the outside of customers' homes, allowing them to receive Internet signals from a nearby basestation.

Thus, Viaero could be looking to acquire C-band spectrum to combine that spectrum with its CBRS holdings so it can build a fixed wireless Internet service across parts of rural Colorado and Kansas. Such an offering could potentially support blazing-fast Internet connections for users in homes and offices in range of its cell towers, given the amount of spectrum that Viaero might be able to devote to the service if it acquires C-band spectrum and uses it in conjunction with its CBRS spectrum.

To be clear, Viaero isn't the only wireless network operator eyeing the upcoming C-band auction, which is scheduled to start next week. For example, Verizon, T-Mobile and Comcast have all also requested FCC permission to test operations in the band. The C-band auction could become the FCC's biggest auction ever; the financial analysts at New Street Research believe bidders could dole out a total of $51 billion in bids.

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

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