Amazon seeks 5-month STA to test ‘innovative communications’ in Seattle

Amazon (flickr)
Amazon wants to conduct tests indoors at and near its company facilities in Seattle as well as outdoors at a temporary fixed location near facilities in Kennewick, Washington. (Image: Simone Brunozzi/CC By-SA 2.0)

Amazon has applied at the FCC for Special Temporary Authority (STA) to conduct tests using prototype equipment and several different spectrum bands, including parts of the 700, 800 and 1900 MHz bands.

The application doesn’t specify exactly what kind of devices Amazon plans to test; the paperwork states it is for testing and evaluating the performance and reliability of “prototype equipment and associated software designed to support innovative communications capabilities and functionalities.”

Amazon would not comment as to the nature of the devices to be tested: “We don’t comment on rumors and speculation,” the company said in a statement to FierceWirelessTech.

Amazon is proposing to initially operate a limited number of low-power, temporary fixed base transmitters and associated mobile units indoors at and near its company facilities in Seattle, with additional tests conducted outdoors at a remote rural location near its facilities in Kennewick, Washington. The company is asking for a five-month authorization starting Feb. 11.

Amazon explained that it does not plan to operate continuously in all of the bands or operate on all channels within the bands listed, which include 704-716 MHz, 734-756 MHz, 777-787 MHz, 791-821 MHz, 824-849 MHz, 832-862 MHz, 869-894 MHz, 1710-1785 MHz, 1805-1880 MHz, 1850-1915 MHz, 1920-1980 MHz, 1930-1995 MHz and 2110-2170 MHz.

The application states that Amazon will change channels when necessary to avoid interference, and it will not operate on channels deployed by licensees of public safety, aeronautical or public coast radio services. The company will also monitor the operations of other licensees and users before starting transmissions to avoid interference.

The temporary base stations will typically transmit on average for only 5 minutes per hour per day per week on any specific channel or band, and the power level of the operations in the Seattle locations will be limited to 20 mW effective radiated power (ERP). The power level of the operations near Kennewick will be limited to 300 mW ERP, according to the filing.

Wireless engineering consultant Steve Crowley said there’s not a lot of detail in the public documents, but the tests are not about drones. All the antennas are close to the ground, and the application mentions mobile and fixed operation, so it seems to be a typical base station and multiple-mobile operation. No specific vendor is identified.

He also observed that the bandwidth shown in the emission designator is 4.14 MHz. “That narrower bandwidth is unusual,” Crowley told FierceWirelessTech. “Typically on such mobile applications the bandwidth is wider, more typical for, say, LTE—e.g., 10 MHz or 20 MHz. But, LTE can work down to 1.4 MHz so no big deal. This might not be LTE at all. From the emission designator, it is some type of digital data transmission.”

The technical contact listed on the application is Neil Woodward, a former NASA astronaut who Amazon hired in 2014; he’s now senior manager of tech programs.

Amazon has tried to get into the smartphone space with the Fire Phone that was unveiled at a major media event in June 2014 in Seattle. That device was deemed a flop, and in 2015, CNET detailed some of the lessons learned from the experience. But Amazon is also involved in plenty of other devices, and its Wi-Fi enabled personal assistant Alexa stole the show at CES 2017 last week, popping up in everything from cars to more smart home appliances.  

On Thursday, Amazon announced that it will be creating 100,000 new full-time, full-benefit jobs in the United States in the next year and a half. The jobs will be for all types of skill levels, from engineers and software developers to those seeking entry-level positions and on-the-job training.