Ericsson wants STA for supersecret 5G tests before Verizon board meeting

Ericsson is asking the FCC for permission to use 27.5-28.35 GHz spectrum so that it can conduct tests using a 5G base station, but it’s asking that confidential treatment be given to details of what’s being studied and the antenna parameters.

The company seeks an 11-month license to do the tests but wants authorization by Feb. 28 in time to conduct a demo at the Verizon Board of Governors meeting, according to the application, which lists the station location in Palo Alto, California.

Ericsson says the information for which it seeks confidential treatment contains sensitive trade secrets and commercial information that would customarily be guarded from competitors.

“Ericsson has invested finances, planning and expertise into developing the ‘secret commercially valuable plan’ that is the program of research into 5G, and we will use this research to develop 5G products,” the company states in its documents. “The antenna parameters and testing details are part of this plan and that is not information we would disclose except for the need to obtain the STA.”

Ericsson does say it wants authorization to conduct pre-commercial outdoor field trials to validate key 5G concepts and associated performance. The tests will use only one base station and although the base station will be transported to different locations within the test areas over the course of the trials, the base station will remain fixed while it is operating.

The experimental base stations are not built to transit a call sign, so the company is asking that the requirement to transmit a call sign be waived for this experiment. It’s also coordinating with existing users in advance to address interference issues.

In a picture accompanying the application, a base station radio unit is mounted on a mast that is attached to a van; the mast will be raised to a maximum height of 12 meters, but Ericsson isn't publicly disclosing the antenna parameters.

RELATED; Ericsson claims first in delivering 5G radio, with commercial deployments due in 2017

Ericsson has applied for authorization to conduct multiple 5G tests over the past several months, including tests with U.S. Cellular and Charter Communications. It’s not unusual for companies to request information be kept confidential due to the nature of the tests as vendors like Ericsson are trying to differentiate their offerings.

During the company’s most recent quarterly conference call with analysts, Ericsson executives didn’t spend a lot of time talking about what 5G could bring to the company’s bottom line. Executive VP Jan Frykhammar said some use cases will call for deploying a lot of small cells but others will require only a mega radio on high band and so forth. “It depends a little bit on the use case. So from that point of view, I think it’s a little bit too early, but that’s also why we have more than 25 different MOUs working with customers on different use cases and trials to learn,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

New CEO and President Börje Ekholm did make a point of saying that even though Ericsson needs to get itself back into a position of growing profitability, it’s still spending. “We are in a technology industry,” he said. “We need to be technology leaders and stay at the forefront of the technology development. And here, Ericsson has a unique set of assets with our products, but we also have services and solutions and that package creates a unique position for us to compete in the market and that’s something we need to leverage, but it’s also something we continuously need to invest in and develop."