Google again asks for STA to conduct nationwide tests with mystery device

Google office (Google)
Users of the device in question will be Google employees and contractors and potentially external trusted developers. (Google)

It’s hard to make heads or tails out of Google’s latest FCC application for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to conduct nationwide tests—that’s by design, since it’s heavily redacted—but it has something to do with a prototype device using spectrum usually used by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Google requested confidential treatment of its application, so the narrative holds few clues. It says the users of the device in question will be professional Google employees and contractors and also potentially external trusted professional developers.

But it’s mostly leaving the public guessing. For example, one passage reads:

“The Device consists of a [REDACTED] and a [REDACTED] to enable [REDACTED]. The Device utilizes [REDACTED] to enable [REDACTED], as needed and consistent with [REDACTED].”

FierceWirelessTech asked industry engineering consultant Steve Crowley for his take on the documents, and he noted that the frequency bands can be used for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The application lists various frequency ranges from 2.402 GHz to 5.7 GHz.

The 2402-2480 MHz band can be used for Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi. The only other clue is from the emission designators and corresponding bandwidths, shown in the exhibit. Wider bandwidths (13.1, 16.3, 17.4, 36.2 MHz) are consistent with Wi-Fi. The narrower bandwidths (0.98, 1.21, 1.10 MHz) are consistent with Bluetooth. 

In addition, two transmitters are listed in the exhibit. Transmitter No. 1 has bandwidths consistent with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so “I’d assume both are in use in that device,” he said. Transmitter No. 2 only has bandwidths consistent with Bluetooth, and it appears to be a simpler device. 

RELATED: Google seeks STA for mystery prototype device

Google applied for something similar in October and it was granted on Nov. 17, but only after Google answered some questions from the FCC. That application is set to expire May 17.

Google’s current application seeks permission for tests to start May 5 and last through Nov. 1, 2017. The manufacturer of the experimental units is also listed as “confidential.”

Last year, Business Insider reported that one possibility is that Google is working on a VR headset that doesn’t require a smartphone, similar to Facebook's Oculus Rift headset. It also noted that Google's Glass augmented reality headset has built-in radios, but Google stopped selling the device to consumers in 2015.

One of the contacts on last year’s application was Mike Jazayeri, director of product management at Google, whose experience includes virtual reality platforms. The current application, however, lists Ajay Kamath, director of reliability engineering at Google, and he has a diverse engineering background, including apparently working on Google Glass.

FierceWirelessTech reached out to Google to see if the company has any comment, but in the FCC paperwork, Google said that it expects confidential treatment will be necessary for the length of the proposed experiment and thereafter “in order to protect its evolving business and technology strategies.” Until it's ready to spill the beans, it looks to be a guessing game.