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Google wants to test next-gen wireless tech by using racecars

Google Fiber wireless tests? Next-gen last mile tech on trial

Google has filed an application with the FCC for permission to test next-gen wireless technology at racetracks. The filing seeks authorization to experiment with transmissions on the 3.5GHz frequency, a hot topic for development as the industry looks harder at 5G, and what comes next.

The purpose of the tests, at least according to Google’s vague filing, is “transmission of broadband data from racecars to transportable/fixed base stations located at racetrack facilities in connection with three automobile racing events.” The tests will be conducted at Plano and Fort Worth from October 1st until April next year.

Google is being unusually secretive about what the tests are for. On the application, the eventual purpose is to “expeditiously test radios in a way that is likely to contribute to the development, extension, expansion or utilization of the radio art,” which is a very legal way to say mind your own business.

Although Google doesn’t have any kind of wireless business just yet, there are obvious end use-cases for the 3.5GHz spectrum. The most obvious is as an alternative to fiber-to-the-house for fixed broadband. Google has long-documented struggles with building out the “last mile” for Google Fiber, its domestic internet service, thanks to the cost and difficulty of running a new wire to every house in a neighbourhood. Wireless in higher frequencies than traditional broadband (for which 3.5GHz qualifies) is widely viewed as an alternative to running a wire, and could be a big part in the next generation of broadband rollout.

Even if Google isn’t planning on specifically using 3.5GHz as a last-mile solution, it can still test applicable technologies on 3.5GHz. Fierce Wireless notes that earlier this year, Google was involved with another test at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in collaboration with Nokia and Qualcomm. In that instance, Google handled the software end of the Spectrum Access System (SAS). SAS is the concept that makes sharing spectrum access between many different players possible, and it will be a big part of any next-gen wireless tech going forwards.