Sunday, February 5, 2012

Is Google Testing Local Wireless Broadband Networks?

GigaOM has come across a document (PDF) that Google filed with the FCC on December 29, 2011 requesting permission to test an entertainment device outside the laboratory. Many publications have speculated about what it could be. VentureBeat thinks it is related to Google TV, 9to5 Google says they are smart glasses with a computer interface, MG Siegler guesses a hardware device of some kind, while Phandroid takes the Android@Home route.

Before speculating let's extensively research the document line by line to see if it gives us any clues. This will be organized in the way I discover the details.
  • Filed with Office of Engineering and Technology (OET). Their mission is to manage the spectrum and provide leadership to create new opportunities for competitive technologies and services.
  • Richard S. Whitt is a telecommunications lawyer per his Google+ profile; looking at his contacts provides no insight. He is known for his work on mobile broadband, the spectrum, and WiFi.
    • In October he worked on four Motorola licensing transfers (0004907037, 0004907038), 0004912040, and 0004912042. These, according to this document (PDF), are for Private Land Mobile Radio Services.
      • The filing from December 29, 2011 states the Class of Station is MO which means "Mobile Station" intended to be used while in motion or during halts at unspecified points, which includes hand carried transmitters.
    • Along with the December 29, 2011 filing I found a second one (PDF) from December 13, 2011 he submitted.
      • Also has the Class of Station marked as MO
      • Is for a "next generation personal communication device"
  • The purpose of the test is to connect the devices to home WiFi networks to test stability, and that of the supported Bluetooth technology.
    • The December 13th document essentially says the same
  • The call sign WF9XLG can be tracked to an RSS feed from the FCC which says "A grant was issued on 02/02/2012 to Google Inc., experiment type: WiFi". In the feed we can see file number 0798-EX-ST-2011. There are some new documents there, but they do not provide any further insight.
    • The call sign from the older document is WF9XKU and can be also be tracked to that RSS feed from the FCC which says "A grant was issued on 01/26/2012 to Google Inc., experiment type: WiFi". In the feed we can see file number 0758-EX-ST-2011. There are some new documents there, but they do not provide any further insight.
  • The manufacturer is listed as Google. Before the Motorola acquisition they did not manufacture anything.
  • All tests will use Google employees that are in range of a Google office
  • The 5 GHz frequency listed can be used for a lot of things, including WiFi and Wireless ISPs. The 2.4 GHz can be used for Bluetooth wireless LANs.

With all of these details it leads me to believe they are possibly testing a local wireless broadband network with a Google office as the hub and the devices listed in the December 29, 2011 filing as the nodes. Could be a WDS or a WMN type of setup. The 252 nodes must be a type of home entertainment base to fall within the "entertainment device" description, and could be a new Google TV or Android@Home device as some believe with additional functionality. That device could allow connections from current WiFi and Bluetooth enabled cell phones to have non-cellular phone calls and communications. The earlier December filing is for 102 personal communication devices which may be handheld and used for voice and data communications while within the LAN and outside of a traditional home connection.

Or, I could be way off! What do you think Google is working on?