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Facebook to test 5G small cells at Menlo Park HQ

Facebook is asking the FCC for permission to test a 5G small cell network across a wide range of midband spectrum bands at its headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

"The purpose of operation is to demonstrate the self-organizing network (SON) features in a 5G over-the-air setup operating in a small cell configuration," Facebook wrote in its application to the FCC. "Lab testing does not allow feature realization. The outdoor test setup aims at validating the improvements done to 5G cellular networks. The improvements involve: (1) load balancing between the cells in an attempt to optimize the resource utilization, reduce call drops, and create a better user experience by means of improved quality of service; and (2) run time selection and updates of the 5G cell physical layer cell identifiers (PCIs) to avoid conflict between neighboring cells, thereby avoiding UE [user equipment] drops and reducing network signaling traffic."

Importantly, the company is looking to conduct the tests in a variety of noteworthy spectrum bands, including the 2.5GHz midband spectrum T-Mobile is using to construct its 5G network and the C-band spectrum that Verizon and AT&T are using to construct their respective midband 5G networks. Facebook's tests will also operate in the 3.5GHz CBRS band with Spectrum Access System (SAS) technology from CommScope.

Facebook did not name any equipment suppliers for the tests beyond Kaelus, which supplies testing and measurement equipment for wireless networks.

Facebook filed the application under the FCL Tech name, which it has used in the past for other wireless tests.

Facebook, of course, is no stranger to the wireless networking industry. Indeed, it has dabbled in a variety of technologies ranging from airborne drones to fiber-building robots to core 5G networking technology. Indeed, the company's new Terregraph backhaul technology has been adopted by several equipment vendors. Facebook is also a prominent backer of the Telecom Infra Project, which is developing a variety of software products for wireless network operators and others.

What Facebook might intend to do with its new tests is unclear. Companies typically do not discuss their wireless networking research and development plans.

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

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