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Private Networks

American Tower plans to demo private 5G robotic cleaners at AWS re:Invent

Cell tower giant American Tower appears to be preparing a private wireless networking demonstration in support of Amazon's upcoming re:Invent trade show that would include "robotic in-store cleaners within mall stores."

Details of the test were included in a new filing American Tower made with the FCC. Company officials did not respond to questions from Light Reading about the filing.

In the filing, American Tower said it "plans to conduct this experiment within the Miracle Mile Shops indoor mall" that is located in Las Vegas. "The project purpose is to facilitate the transition to 5G of wireless communications services provided to businesses and shoppers within the mall. An illustrative practical application of this testing of the private 5G network would be the activation and control of robotic in-store cleaners within mall stores after hours," according to the filing.

(Source: photo_gonzo/Alamy Stock Photo)
(Source: photo_gonzo/Alamy Stock Photo)

American Tower said the test, running in the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band, would be held in conjunction with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re:Invent event beginning on November 28, 2022. The company said it would use indoor wireless equipment from vendor Airspan for the test.

The filing was made by "ATC TRS," but it includes contact information for Paul Choiseul, VP of innovation for American Tower. Companies like American Tower, which is one of the nation's three big, publicly traded cell tower owners, routinely file documents with the FCC under the names of various subsidiaries.

Hybrid private and public

"This project is designed to test, totally within the confines of an indoor commercial mall in Las Vegas, Nevada, the performance of a private 5G wireless network, with the ultimate objective of deployment of hybrid public/private 5G wireless networks," according to American Tower's filing.

It is not surprising that American Tower wants to develop new in-building products. Indeed, on its website the company argues that indoor wireless services can help businesses attract tenants to their venues. It notes that beyond simply connecting visitors, the services can be used to optimize the operation of heating, cooling and water systems and to minimize manual tasks, "such as restroom cleaning, with usage statistics."

But the company's suggestion of a hybrid public and private wireless network is interesting, considering such operations have been discussed but rarely implemented. Big wireless network operators have avoided supporting wireless networks that they do not directly control, which has essentially prevented private wireless network operators from earning roaming revenues by offering connections to everyday wireless users.

It is unclear whether American Tower's tests might be designed to create a bridge between public, commercial wireless networks and private networks built and operated by malls and other venue owners.

More private wireless momentum

It also comes as no surprise that American Tower is pursuing private wireless networking when virtually every company in the wireless industry – from vendors like Ericsson to operators like Verizon to startups like Betacom – is also looking to sell products and services for private wireless networks.

AWS recently announced the first commercial iteration of its own private wireless 5G offering. The company undoubtedly plans to discuss that product and its broader ambitions in wireless during re:Invent.

Indeed, the trade show has emerged as a site for plenty of hype and speculation in the wireless industry. For example, during Amazon's 2019 event, the company announced a major new edge computing effort with partners including Verizon and Vodafone. In 2021, AWS and Dish Network talked up private wireless networking. Dish is running much of its 5G network in the AWS cloud.

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

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