Google is seeking permission from the Federal Communications Commission to build an intriguing yet vaguely worded experimental wireless network around its California-based headquarters.
The FCC application was discovered Jan. 22 by Steven J. Crowley, an electrical engineer from Washington D.C., who routinely checks FCC applications as part of his work for clients. After finding the application, Crowley mentioned it in a post on his professional engineering blog.
"An exhibit says that Google intends to construct a radio network in the vicinity of the Google corporate campus in Mountain View, Calif.," wrote Crowley. "Google plans to test up to 50 base stations and 200 user devices."
Base stations will be indoors and outdoors, with each having a range of 100-200 meters and 500-1,000 meters, respectively, according to Crowley.
Both directional and nondirectional antennas will be used, he added.
"The experiment is to take place within a 2-mile radius, so this is a quite dense network, which could have very high capacity for carrying data," wrote Crowley.
That sparse information was interesting, so he revealed its existence on his blog, Crowley told eWEEK in an interview.
"There are not a lot of details here," he said. "From that you can extrapolate many things."
The Google FCC filing includes portions of the application, and accompanying exhibits are designated "confidential," while parts of an accompanying letter are redacted for confidentiality, according to Crowley's post.
So what could Google be interested in testing? There are a wide range of unsubstantiated possibilities, said Crowley, including experiments related to the Google Fiber project in Kansas City where the company may be seeking increased performance capabilities.
Google has been unveiling Google Fiber in sections of Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., since last fall in the first deployments of a system that the company hopes will go national in the future.
"Google Fiber in Kansas City, they've hinted that it's not a hobby to them and that maybe it's not done" in terms of development, said Crowley. "So maybe this is related to creating a superdense LTE [Long-Term Evolution] network where you have many cells stitched together to reach a capacity that's much higher than is available today. A lot of it is really just speculation."
Google requested access to the radio frequencies between 2524-2546MHz and 2567-2625MHz, Crowley noted in his blog post.
"These are bands allocated to the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) and the Broadband Radio Service (BRS), which are used by Clearwire for its mobile broadband service," he wrote. "(Google owned a stake in Clearwire, which it sold last year.) A cursory check of the FCC's database (the accuracy of which varies) indicates that Clearwire, in the Mountain View [Calif.] area, might be leasing at least some of this spectrum from Stanford University."
Google has apparently never used those frequencies previously, he wrote, which gave him a "hint" that their application was "unusual," he said. "I think Clearwire's looking for other business opportunities too, and I think they'll be eager to work with companies that can do experimentation with an eye toward the future, such as Google."
Clearwire was not specifically mentioned in the Google FCC application, but Crowley believes they are potentially involved due to the bandwidth request Google filed.
A Google spokesman declined to comment on the FCC filing, but a source close to the matter told eWEEK that the application has nothing to do with Google Fiber or with any other consumer-facing technologies.
Google was recently in the news for another wireless initiative in early January in New York City, where the company is bringing a free outdoor WiFi network to the southwest section of the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, where Google has its New York headquarters.
The services were announced Jan. 8 during a press conference at Google's offices, and are being offered in partnership with a local nonprofit neighborhood group, Chelsea Improvement Co.
The system will encapsulate the first Google-served neighborhood in Manhattan and will be the largest contiguous WiFi network in New York City, according to Google.