In May, Apple submitted an application 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 they are limited by line of sight issues that can cause problems in dense urban areas.
An excerpt from Apple's application with the FCC:
Apple Inc. seeks to assess cellular link performance in direct path and multipath environments between base station transmitters and receivers using this spectrum. These assessments will provide engineering data relevant to the operation of devices on wireless carriers’ future 5G networks.Apple intends to transmit from two fixed points located at Apple-controlled facilities in Cupertino, California, where it is headquartered, and nearby Milpitas, according to its FCC application. Apple said it anticipates that it will safely conduct its experiments for a period not to exceed 12 months.
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, but it will join the likes of Google, Facebook, and major U.S. cellular carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, who are 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. The 28GHz band in particular has been earmarked for earth-to-space transmissions, an area Apple has been exploring based on recent hires with satellite expertise.
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