CableLabs seeks STAs to test 5G gear from multiple vendors

Given all the claims vendors have been making around their abilities to deliver 5G and pre-5G equipment, CableLabs wants to give some of the gear a spin to see how it performs for real.

CableLabs filed applications for Special Temporary Authority (STA) with the FCC so that it can test the performance characteristics of 5G network equipment operating in the 27.5-28.35 GHz and 71.0-75.0 GHz bands. They'll be looking at things related to coverage, throughput, latency and operational considerations, including installation, electrical power and footprint. The applications seek to start tests July 8 and end Jan. 8, 2017.

The locations for the tests include Louisville, Brighton and Dillon, all in Colorado. CableLabs' headquarters is located in Louisville. It also holds a summer conference at Keystone Resort, which is in Dillon, Colorado, where it can show demos to its cable company members.

A lot of claims about 5G and pre-5G are being made by vendors, and CableLabs' engineers want to see for themselves what kind of performance is achievable, according to Mark Walker, CableLabs principal strategist. The tests will involve both indoor and outdoor scenarios, he told FierceWirelessTech.

The applications stated the tests will include gear from various manufacturers. Walker said he could not discuss the names of the vendors without prior clearance.

CableLabs' desire to conduct its own tests shouldn't come as any surprise. A non-profit research and development consortium, CableLabs tests all kinds of new technology at its facilities in Louisville, including virtual reality, to see what kind of future it has in the cable business.

Cable companies have long been expected to get more involved in offering wireless services, something they've yet to do in a big way beyond Wi-Fi. It's still unknown how many of them are participating in the incentive auction, but with the FCC set to unleash a huge amount of high-band spectrum, the opportunities for cable companies in the wireless space can only increase.

Last year, CableLabs was granted permission to use Clearwire's 2.5 GHz spectrum to test how LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) and Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) co-exist with Wi-Fi networks. It even got the blessing of Sprint (NYSE: S), which acquired 100 percent ownership of Clearwire in 2013.

Interestingly, Sprint is largely staying out of the LTE-U debate, with CTO John Saw telling FierceWirelessTech last month that Sprint has less of a need to go to LTE-U so quickly. It has ample spectrum and 2.5 GHz is right next to unlicensed bands. "There's very little need for us to go to LTE Unlicensed" until the coexistence issues get settled, he said. "Anything to do with LTE Unlicensed has to be able to coexist peacefully with Wi-Fi obviously. That's what we've advocated for."

For more:
- see this CableLabs application and this application

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