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Google’s Secret Wireless Plan to Test at Nascar Races

May 31, 2017, 5:18 PM UTC

Google has received permission to move forward with a quiet test of new wireless technology that could eventually bring lower cost Internet connections to mobile users.

The Federal Communications Commission last week approved Google’s application to try its new gear in four spots over the summer. The tests will take place at Nascar race events at tracks in Bristol, Tenn.; Brooklyn, Mich.; Darlington, S.C.; and Richmond, Va. The FCC approval was reported earlier by the web site LightReading.

Google hasn’t released many details about the trials, but the technology won’t require spectrum licenses because it will operate in the 3.5 GHz band set aside by the FCC for extending Wi-Fi as part of its Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) plan. Ultimately, offering Internet connections in unlicensed bands should bring down the cost, although the new users must take care not to interfere with others already using nearby airwave bands in some locations, including military radar stations and satellite receiver stations.

Google has also asked the FCC about testing the 3.5 GHz gear in 24 cities around the country. Google declined to comment on the Nascar trial approval. 

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While there is no guarantee that anything will come of the tests, Google has said in previous applications that it is working towards a “secret commercially valuable plan.”

Google already owns Webpass, a unit of its Alphabet holding company’s Fiber business, which offers Internet service to homes and businesses using licensed wireless bands. But the service only uses wireless connections to reach large businesses and apartment dwellings and then links with each customer inside the buildings via a traditional ethernet wired connection. The 3.5 GHz tests are expected to provide wireless Internet connections directly to phones or other gear.

The FCC’s final CBRS plan, adopted last year, made available 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band for sharing without licenses. Some wireless carriers like Verizon (VZ) plan to extend their own networks by deploying small transmission cells that can operate in the 3.5 GHz band, while Google (GOOGL) and others are looking at offering service separate from existing networks.