Alphabet’s Google X labs are always up to something innovative and just a bit zany, but most things they want to do require government approval, as they learned the hard way when California lawmakers put a serious damper on their self-driving car plans. Today, they submitted a filing to the Federal Communications Commission today asking for “experimental authorization to conduct nationwide testing of airborne and terrestrial transmitters in the 71-76 and 81-86 GHz bands (collectively, the E-band).” In the same filing, they outline some concerns that may be raised about the testing and try to assuage fears that the testing may interrupt or interfere with other uses of nearby spectrum, saying in their filing, “…although we respect that the commenters’ concerns are genuinely held, there is no factual basis for them. ”
Google starts out by stating that their proposed terrestrial tests comply with applicable FCC standards, specifically those that are meant to mitigate exposure to microwaves and radio waves by the general populace and their devices. They say the same of their airborne testing, taking care to point out that although the airborne tests won’t exceed the maximum specifications allowed for wave output, they will also be massively diluted by the time they hit the ground, presenting almost no exposure risk whatsoever. Google’s filing also says that, both on the ground and in the air, other users of the E-band spectrum bands will not see interference from Google’s test devices, specifying that they plan to use “s proprietary interference-mitigation methods rely on the Commission’s link registrations and information regarding Google’s own operations, including the precise location of transmitters and the technical characteristics both the transmitters and the antennas deployed.” They also state that much of the testing will likely take place outside of U.S. soil.
Since the testing is set to be airborne and use spectrum commonly used for directional waves, there is some speculation that this has something to do with Google X’s Project Loon. The fact that Google X head Astro Teller signed the original application that the filing pertains to presents even more evidence in that direction, however nothing is given away upfront. The actual filing is instead signed by Aparna Sridhar, a counsel for Google. There was no word on a possible or even desired time frame for approval of the testing, nor was there any sign of a list of locations and dates testing is supposed to take place. This means that if it is indeed Project Loon, industry news followers might in this case be just as well served to keep an eye on the skies as to continue keeping up with industry news.