August 23, 2013
Amazon Tests New Wireless Network
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
According to a report from Bloomberg, Amazon has tested their own wireless network meant to work with their line of Kindle devices. Sources familiar with the matter said the network was tested in Cupertino, California with the satellite spectrum provided by Globalstar Inc.
None of the companies allegedly involved in this testing have issued a comment yet, and it’s not clear whether Amazon will continue testing or is getting ready to roll out the system in the near future. According to Bloomberg, Globalstar is seeking regulatory approval from the FCC to move 80 percent of their spectrum from orbit to solid ground. In a letter to the FCC explaining the trial, Globalstar said they were working with a "major technology company" to "assess the significanct performance benefits of their network.
The trial reportedly took place in Apple’s backyard at Amazon’s Lab126 research facilities. The Kindle line was born in these labs, and earlier this year, Amazon began aggressively staffing-up this arm of their research and development department. It has also been suggested that if Amazon is building their own set-top box and smartphone, they are likely being developed at this lab. Such a network could deliver wireless Internet to Kindle devices everywhere and potentially to their rumored smartphone.
As for Globalstar’s role in the alleged testing, the Milpitas, California company has been actively working to switch much of their spectrum. In November 2012 the company applied to the FCC for permission to provide WiFi-like services at speeds faster than traditional wireless networks. Globalstar also claims that their network can handle more traffic than their current satellite offerings.
“We are now well positioned in the ongoing process with the FCC as we seek terrestrial authority for our spectrum,” said Globalstar CEO James Monroe in an update to investors during the last earnings call. If they are granted permission to make the switch, Globalstar may share some of this new spectrum with other parties, such as carriers, cable companies and, presumably, “major technology companies.” The satellite company was granted permission to try out their new terrestrial-based network on July 1.
Amazon isn’t the first to consider building out their own network, of course. Google Fiber is already delivering fast Internet and Wi-Fi speeds to Kansas City. They plan to expand this network to Austin, Texas; Provo, Utah; and many communities in the Kansas and Missouri area. Google is also developing a Wi-Fi network in their home of Mountain View, California and recently agreed to take over the Wi-Fi contract for Starbucks Coffee.
It has long been rumored that Apple is developing their own network made only for iPads and iPhones. Last May a veteran wireless industry analyst stirred up the embers of these long burning rumors once more when he claimed that Apple not only had the distribution channels and content portfolio to be a strong contender in this market, but that they also have a strong customer base. According to some analysts, Apple could simply operate a MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator. These networks run on top of existing networks, such as AT&T or Verizon.