Google plans airborne technology tests using 2.5 GHz

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has asked the FCC for permission to use the 2.5 GHz band to test aircraft technology at the New Mexico Spaceport facility and at an Indian reservation in Warm Springs, Ore., and in the town of Pescadero, Calif., according to a Business Insider report.

According to documents filed with the FCC, Google wants to test a radio technology that involves aircraft hovering 25,000 feet above ground and several terrestrial stations at Spaceport America, where Virgin Galactic and SpaceX have set up facilities in the New Mexico desert, as well as in Madras, Ore., near the Warm Springs reservation. The search giant requested authority from the FCC over the summer before restructuring into the Alphabet holding company.

As Business Insider points out, the company is working on several space-based projects, including Project Loon, which is designed to deliver the Internet to under-served regions of the world, and Project Titan, which involves using drones to deliver packages. The information in the filings -- much of which are redacted -- does not indicate exactly which project Google may want to test or whether it involves manned or unmanned aircraft.

A description in the filing states: "In the proposed testing, Google will use 2.5 GHz band frequencies solely for communications payload (specifically, to relay data communications from one fixed ground station to another via an aircraft), not flight-related activities or communications to and from either maritime or mobile satellite use. Therefore, the general restriction on aeronautical mobile use of the 2.5 GHz band does not apply to these tests."

The forms state the aircraft would fly at maximum altitude of 25,000 feet, which is lower than the 60,000 feet that Loon balloons fly at. The tests were expected to continue through February 2016. Google also said that the proposed operations did not implicate concerns surrounding the safety of aviation operations. Google's proposed payload operations would be latency-tolerant data communications that do not impact aircraft operations or safety of life; Google said its operations would be spectrally separated from nearby bands by 15 MHz or more and not likely to cause harmful interference to distantly adjacent satellite services.

Google routinely applies for experimental licenses and they are often, but not always, granted. Last year, Google said its testing revealed that LTE and Wi-Fi networks can work in close proximity to radar systems in the 3.5 GHz band, proving it is unnecessary to establish large exclusion zones to protect commercial wireless systems from harmful radar interference.

At last week's Fortune Global Forum 2015, Alphabet CEO Larry Page said there are many places in the world where people still can't get a cell signal, and Project Loon could change that in a way that most people probably don't appreciate. He said the thing about Loon is you can use the cell phone you already have in your pocket and it talks to the balloons, which basically act like cell towers in the sky.

The company continues to make progress with Loon despite its early odds (hence the "Loon" name). Late last month, the company announced that after 17 million kilometers of test flights across jungles, mountains and plains, Project Loon signed agreements with three Indonesian mobile network operators -- Indosat, Telkomsel and XL Axiata -- to begin testing balloon-powered Internet over Indonesia next year. 

Google said in flight testing, the Loon team already has been able to wirelessly transfer data between individual balloons floating over 100 kilometers apart in the stratosphere, enabling local network operators to extend their Internet service into areas that are too difficult to reach with current technology.

For more:
- see this Business Insider article

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