Intel wants to conduct more tests using Sprint spectrum

Intel Jones Farm (M.O. Stevens/CC BY-SA 3.0)
One of the places Intel wants to conduct tests is at its Jones Farm Campus. Image: M.O. Stevens/CC BY-SA 3.0

Intel is asking the FCC for permission to conduct tests at 2594-2614 MHz using various experimental equipment from Intel, Huawei, National Instruments, Keysight, Agilent and Rhode & Schwartz.

The tests are to be conducted at facilities in Hillsboro, Oregon, and Santa Clara, California, similar to tests Intel was given authorization to conduct back in August, when Intel proposed indoor tests using the same spectrum band. The authority to do those tests is due to expire Jan. 1, 2017.

RELATED: Intel applies for STA to conduct tests at its campuses in Oregon, California

Intel told the FCC in its most recent application, which was spotted by engineering consultant Steve Crowley, that it already has authorization from Sprint to use its spectrum for the tests and locations; however, the devices won’t be connecting to Sprint’s network.

“Intel’s research and development team is designing new radio technologies for the next generation broad band wireless devices,” the Nov. 14 application states. “Over the air testing is required to validate the designs, characterize propagation impact, and verify overall performance. This testing will be completed within the buildings at the locations given.”

The company also said all testing will be conducted indoors, on Intel campuses except for the Holiday Inn location based in Hillsboro, Oregon. If approved, the test period would begin Nov. 28 and end March 28, 2017.

Intel is part of 5G network technology tests with Verizon and AT&T. AT&T and Verizon both have linked their 5G plans with network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), areas where Intel also is heavily involved.

Interestingly, Intel was a partner in the WiMAX joint venture that Sprint and Clearwire were involved in nearly a decade ago. Sprint acquired 100 percent ownership of Clearwire in 2013 and a cash infusion from Softbank that same year gave Sprint the ability to deploy Clearwire’s 2.5 GHz spectrum on a nationwide basis.

Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati said at an investor conference earlier this month that more than half of Sprint’s LTE traffic is being carried on its 2.5 GHz airwaves, spectrum that Sprint considers to be the “bedrock” for the carrier’s 5G efforts.

RELATED: Sprint: More than half our LTE traffic is on 2.5 GHz

The carrier holds 160 MHz of 2.5 GHz airwaves in markets across the country. “It (2.5 GHz) used to be perceived as being the nice-to-have WiMAX spectrum…. But it’s not nice-to-have. It’s essential spectrum,” Robbiati said. “That spectrum is unusually effective at carrying vast amounts of traffic, but it does not travel very far.”

Because of the limited propagation characteristics of 2.5 GHz, operators will need plenty of the high-band airwaves to deliver data to users on the move, Robbiati said. Providing consistent 5G services to consumers “has to be handed over spectrum layers,” he said, so service isn’t interrupted. “So now if you look at the world of 5G, we feel that 2.5 will be to 5G what 800 MHz was to LTE,” Robbiati said. “We feel that’s the bedrock of 5G.”

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