Apple Files FCC Application to Test Next-Generation 5G Wireless Technology

Apple is planning to test next-generation 5G wireless technologies, according to an application document filed with the FCC and discovered by Business Insider.

Apple applied for an experimental license to test wireless technology on millimeter wave spectrum bands. Millimeter wave bands provide higher bandwidth and throughput up to 10Gb/s, but are limited by line of sight issues that cause problems in dense urban areas.
"Apple Inc. seeks to assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum," Apple wrote in its application.

"These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks," it continued.
Apple will test the technology in two locations in Milpitas and Cupertino over a period of time that is not expected to exceed 12 months, using equipment sourced from Rohde and Schwarz, A.H. Systems, and Analog Devices. Apple will use the 28 and 39 GHz bands, which were among those opened up by the FCC last year for the purpose of next-generation 5G broadband.

It’s not entirely clear why Apple is planning to test millimeter wave performance or the purpose behind the testing. Cellular carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are currently testing 5G networks in preparation to deploy the next-generation technology in the coming years.

Apple could perhaps be preparing its future iPhones to take advantage of 5G technology, or the company may have some other purpose in mind. As Business Insider points out, the 28GHz band in particular could be of interest as it has been earmarked for earth-to-space transmissions, an area Apple has been exploring based on recent hires with satellite expertise.

Tags: FCC, 5G

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Apple Files FCC Application to Test Next-Generation 5G Wireless Technology

Apple is planning to test next-generation 5G wireless technologies, according to an application document filed with the FCC and discovered by Business Insider.

Apple applied for an experimental license to test wireless technology on millimeter wave spectrum bands. Millimeter wave bands provide higher bandwidth and throughput up to 10Gb/s, but are limited by line of sight issues that cause problems in dense urban areas.
"Apple Inc. seeks to assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum," Apple wrote in its application.

"These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks," it continued.
Apple will test the technology in two locations in Milpitas and Cupertino over a period of time that is not expected to exceed 12 months, using equipment sourced from Rohde and Schwarz, A.H. Systems, and Analog Devices. Apple will use the 28 and 39 GHz bands, which were among those opened up by the FCC last year for the purpose of next-generation 5G broadband.

It’s not entirely clear why Apple is planning to test millimeter wave performance or the purpose behind the testing. Cellular carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile are currently testing 5G networks in preparation to deploy the next-generation technology in the coming years.

Apple could perhaps be preparing its future iPhones to take advantage of 5G technology, or the company may have some other purpose in mind. As Business Insider points out, the 28GHz band in particular could be of interest as it has been earmarked for earth-to-space transmissions, an area Apple has been exploring based on recent hires with satellite expertise.

Tags: FCC, 5G

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FCC Chairman to End Plans to Allow In-Flight Cellphone Calls

Full smartphone use on commercial flights will continue to be disallowed, according to a proposal issued today by United States Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. Pai wants to terminate 2013 proceedings that aimed to relax the rules prohibiting passengers from using their cellular phones for phone calls and data while in the air.

In a statement [PDF], Pai called the FCC's plan "ill-conceived" and said that tabling it permanently would be a "victory for Americans across the country."
"I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants, and America's flying public against the FCC's ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes. I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet."
Back in late 2013, The FCC announced plans to introduce a proposal that would allow passengers to use their cellular phones on airplanes during flight for making phone calls and browsing the web. The proposal went forward, despite protests from flight attendants, airlines, consumer groups, and pilots, leading the Department of Transportation to announce plans to consider banning calls if the FCC approved the measure.

Since then, the FCC has been investigating the safety of allowing cellphone service on planes, and the proposal has not moved forward. With Pai aiming to nix it completely, it sounds like cellphone usage while in flight, including data usage for web browsing and making voice calls, will continue to be banned.

Under the FCC's existing rules, which were updated in 2013, passengers can use personal devices like iPhones and iPads throughout their flights, but cellular service must be disabled through Airplane Mode.

Tag: FCC

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FCC Chairman Encourages Activation of the FM Radio Chip Built Into Your iPhone

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has advocated for the activation of FM radio receivers built into nearly every smartphone, as part of opening remarks he made at the Future of Radio and Audio Symposium in Washington D.C. today.


Many smartphones sold today, including iPhones, have an FM receiver built into the LTE modem that would allow people to listen to FM radio over the air; however, many carriers and phone makers have not enabled the functionality, forcing users to use an app to stream FM radio over Wi-Fi or cellular data.

Pai cited a NAB study that found only 44% of the top-selling smartphones in the United States had activated FM receivers as of last year. The vast majority—94%—of the non-activated smartphones are iPhones, according to the study.


"We could be doing a lot better," said Pai, who was appointed as FCC chairman last month. "It seems odd that every day we hear about a new smartphone app that lets you do something innovative, yet these modern-day mobile miracles don’t enable a key function offered by a 1982 Sony Walkman."

The activation of FM receivers in iPhones would have several benefits, including battery life savings, less data usage, and most importantly, the ability to receive emergency alerts over radio without service.

"You could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone," added Pai. "The former head of our Federal Emergency Management Administration has spoken out in support of this proposal. The FCC has an expert advisory panel on public safety issues that has also advocated enabling FM radio chips on smartphones."

Pai said that while he will keep speaking out about the benefits of activating FM receivers in smartphones, he is a believer in free markets and the rule of law, and he thereby cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips, nor does he believe the FCC has the power to issue said mandate.

In 2015, an online campaign was launched to "free radio" on smartphones. It calls for U.S. carriers to activate the FM radio receivers in smartphones. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile now support the functionality, or will soon, on all or select Android-based smartphones. The campaign extends to Canada.

Apple's stance on the activation of FM receivers in iPhones, and whether it could do so with a simple iOS update, is uncertain. Some have said that iPhones would need another antenna, which may not fit, for proper FM signal reception. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tag: FCC

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Apple Submits Third Model of Mystery ‘Wireless Device’ With Bluetooth and NFC to FCC

Apple recently submitted an unnamed "Wireless Device" to the FCC, a U.S. government agency that regulates communications, for the third time. The latest filing lists a model number of A1845, slotting in between A1844 in the first filing and A1846 in the second, but there are no new clues as to what the device could be.


Apple again requested permanent confidentiality for most of the documents in the filing, including photos, user manuals, and schematics, so the entry largely remains a mystery. Test reports completed by UL Verification Services reveal that, just like in the first two filings, the device has Bluetooth LE and NFC.

The model numbers A1844, A1845, and A1846 do not correspond to any existing Apple products. A regulatory label in the first filing showed the device has at least two slightly curved edges and two Torx screws, but Apple cropped the image in the second and third filings, likely to give fewer hints about its design.

When the original "Wireless Device" was uncovered, there was some speculation that it could perhaps be a new Apple TV, but the prominent and lengthy regulatory text etched directly on the device, including a wiring guide, would be uncharacteristic of Apple to include on the exterior of a consumer-facing product.

The more likely explanation is that the wireless device is for internal use. It is possible that the device in question is something that is used in retail Apple stores, such as a product display unit or iBeacon-based equipment used to communicate with customer iOS devices, which Apple has filed with the FCC in the past.

The FCC filing could remain a mystery until the device is released, and we may not ever know if it does end up being a product for internal use. But it's fun to speculate, with predictions ranging from Apple's rumored Siri-enabled speaker to a smart thermostat given the RS-485 control signals listed.

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Apple Again Seeks FCC Approval for Mysterious ‘Wireless Device’ With Bluetooth and NFC

For all of its devices that use communications technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and NFC, Apple has to submit them to the United States Federal Communications Commission for approval, and the filings, though restricted, occasionally give hints as to what Apple is working on.

In early January, Apple sought approval for an unnamed "Wireless Device" that features support for NFC and Bluetooth. With a model number of A1846, the device appears to be an iteration of a similar Wireless Device that was submitted for regulatory approval back in September. That device shared the same design but had a model number of A1844.

The A1846 model number is not similar to existing Apple products, unveiling no information. There are no photos of the device itself, but a regulatory label that was on the original A1844 device pictured pointed towards slightly curved edges and two included torx screws. Apple appears to have updated the imagery in the second A1846 submission to give fewer hints on its design.

fccregulatorylabel
When the original "Wireless Device" was uncovered, there was some speculation that it could perhaps be a new Apple TV, but given the design of the product and the prominent FCC labeling, it's much more likely that this is a behind-the-scenes object that will not see a public release.

Regulatory information is etched directly on the back plate of the device along with a wiring guide, details that are not included on consumer-facing products.

It's possible that the device in question is something that's used in retail Apple stores, such as a product display unit or iBeacon-based equipment used to communicate with customer iOS devices.

Given Apple's secrecy and its request for the FCC to keep all images, descriptions, diagrams, and antenna locations for the device hidden from the public, we won't know more about the device until it's released, and if it is indeed a non-consumer-facing product as we suspect, we may never figure out what it is.

Tag: FCC

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AT&T and Verizon Facing FCC Scrutiny After Exempting Their Own Apps From Data Caps

Both AT&T and Verizon offer apps and streaming services that don't count against the data cap they impose on customers, a practice that the United States Federal Communications Commission does not approve of.

The FCC this week sent letters (via The Verge) to both Verizon and AT&T, claiming that the data cap exemptions, called "zero rating," raise net neutrality concerns and could impact consumers and competition.

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AT&T and Verizon each offer programs that allow content providers to pay a fee to be exempted from customer data caps, programs that they themselves take advantage of with their own apps and services.

DirecTV Now, AT&T's recently introduced streaming television service, does not use data when streamed on the AT&T network, for example. DirecTV Now pays for the data, but as an AT&T subsidiary, AT&T is just paying itself. Verizon, meanwhile, exempts its own Go90 streaming service from using data on the Verizon network and does not pay fees to do so.

The FCC first sent a warning to AT&T in early November, but was not pleased with the response it received from the company. In this week's letter, the FCC says that it has come to the "preliminary" conclusion that the Sponsored Data program inhibits competition, harms consumers, and violates Open Internet rules. It asks AT&T to answer a series of questions about its Sponsored Data practices.
We find that those responses fail to alleviate the serious concerns expressed in our November 9 letter regarding the potential anti-competitive impacts of a wholesale Sponsored Data program for zero-rated mobile video services. Indeed, your submission tends to confirm our initial view that the Sponsored Data program strongly favors AT&T's own video offerings while unreasonably discriminating against unaffiliated edge providers and limiting their ability to offer competing video services to AT&T's broadband subscribers on a level playing field.
A similar letter sent to Verizon expresses concern over the "FreeBee Data 360" program and says it has the potential to "hinder competition and harm consumers" because Verizon does not need to pay to participate in the Sponsored Data program when it exempts its own app, but competing content providers do.
The position that the participation of Go90 in FreeBee Data 360 is the same as that of third parties, however, fails to take account of the notably different financial impact on unaffiliated edge providers. For example, while there is no cash cost on a consolidated basis for Verizon to zero-rate its own affiliated edge service, an unaffiliated edge provider's FreeBee Data 360 payment to Verizon is a true cash cost that could be significant.
AT&T and Verizon have responded to the letters sent by the FCC in statements given to the media. AT&T says the government should not take away a service that's saving customers money, while Verizon says its practices are good for consumers, non-discriminatory, and consistent with the rules.

The two carriers have been given a December 15 deadline to respond to the FCC's concerns.

Tags: FCC, AT&T, Verizon

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Feds to AT&T and Verizon: Your free data deals violate net neutrality

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The government’s most important media regulator just sent a clear message to America’s biggest wireless companies: Your free data streaming programs are a violation of net neutrality. 

The question, though: Will it matter?

In letters to AT&T and Verizon sent Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission made it clear to the telecom giants that their free streaming programs are a violation of the rules put in place to ensure net neutrality. 

It’s the most aggressive stance yet against so-called “zero rating,” in which people can stream certain content over their phone, without it counting against their data plans. While these programs are somewhat popular with consumers, they’ve also created concern that companies could use these programs to favor their own content, and force other companies to pay up.  Read more…

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