Google plans mystery experiments at 76-77 GHz

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) filed a highly secretive application with the FCC for an experimental radio authority, via which the company aims to test technology in the 76-77 GHz millimeter-wave band. That spectrum is authorized for short-range radar applications, including vehicle radars.

The Jan. 22 filing was uncovered by consulting engineer Steven Crowley, who wrote about it on his blog.

Google asked in a request for confidentiality, which can be accessed by the public, that the FCC treat certain information in its application as confidential and not subject to public inspection. "The designated information constitutes confidential and proprietary information that, if subject to public disclosure, would cause significant commercial, economic, and competitive harm," said the letter.

What little can be gleaned from the highly redacted letter indicates that Google wants to conduct an experiment under statutory temporary authority (STA). The company contends granting of this experimental STA "will not adversely impact any authorized user of RF spectrum." Google is seeking authorization for testing across the United States over 24 months, beginning no later than March 1, 2014.

Crowley noted Google's filing identified two separate transmitter types, "both operating at low power in the range 76-77 GHz, and using FM and BPSK modulation."

Given that the band is used for short-range vehicular radar, Google's planned experiments may involve its self-driving car efforts.

Last week, the company confirmed that it has entered a lease agreement with Merced County, Calif., to use 60 acres of land at Castle Commerce Center for use in developing self-driving car technology. The $456,000 lease is slated to last for two years, the same length of time Google has sought for its experimental STA.

Google's STA request also notes that its online products and services depend on users "having access to robust spectrum resources and wireless infrastructure," which has led it to "become an innovator in spectrum sharing technologies and efficient use of wireless infrastructure." It is unclear whether Google was using that as a selling point for receiving the STA or whether spectrum sharing might have a role in its planned experiments.

Google filed certain exhibits in support of its application with the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology on Jan. 22 but requested that they be kept confidential. The tests/experiments and proprietary wireless applications using particular radiofrequency equipment that Google is planning have significant commercial value and include trade secret information, necessitating the need for secrecy, the company said.

"The services and technologies that are the subject of this Experimental Application have not yet been fully developed but are expected to lead to material developments in markets subject to fierce competition from multiple U.S. and non-U.S. third parties," Google noted in its request for confidentiality.

Further, Google said it has limited the number of people involved in its tests and experiments to only those on a "need to know" basis. It is also requiring all third parties involved in the preliminary analysis to execute robust nondisclosure agreements.

For more:
- see this Steven Crowley blog
- see this FCC filing
- see this Merced Sun-Star article

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