Google is still working on rolling out their internet service, Google Fiber, and their wireless service, Project Fi, in most of the US. Still, they are far from uninterested in pursuing related projects and tweaks to those two. It is in that spirit that they submitted an application to the FCC for an experimental radio license. Their license allows them to run tests for 24 months in select areas. Those tests, specifically, deal with small-cell high-speed data transmission, essentially saturating small urban areas in data throughput. It is unknown if this venture falls on the Fiber side of things, the Fi side of things, or if Google plans to unify the two at some point.
Google will be conducting tests in a large number of locations, most of which were redacted in the official documentation from the FCC, but the list does include a range of area types, like Provo, Utah, and Boulder, Colorado, among more rural fare like Omaha, Nebraska and Reston, Virginia. The plan is to use extremely high-band spectrum, going up into the 3,000’s of MHz, to conduct both small and large cell testing of cellular sites. Since high-band spectrum can transmit huge amounts of data quickly but isn’t the best at distance or building penetration, a small-cell approach, with periodic carrying nodes in more rural areas, actually makes quite a bit of sense.
This comes on the heels of Google’s buyout of Webpass, a firm that specialized in exactly the sort of thing that they plan to test. The rollout of Google Fiber had been slow and expensive, with technicians having to individually wire up each interested home, so there is speculation that Google plans to replace Fiber with a high-spectrum, high-speed, small-cell cellular network, and that the success of this test will determine the feasibility of a nationwide rollout of what is essentially billed as a wireless version of Fiber. If speculation is correct and the tests go well, Google could go on to license out more spectrum from cable companies and wireless carriers, and provide a cheap, fast, wireless solution for internet both at home and on the go, all across the nation. During the tests, only volunteer testers and those on Google’s payroll, like contractors and volunteers, will be using the networks.