It’s no secret that Comcast is looking to make a play in the mobile space. The cable company has previously announced both its intention to activate its MVNO agreement with Verizon and a deal to work with fellow operator Charter on all things wireless. But a new experimental application filed with the FCC sheds some light on just how Comcast may be looking to move forward.
Nokia on Friday asked the FCC for permission to demonstrate its small cell products for a customer located at 1701 John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Philadelphia, which happens to also be the address of Comcast headquarters in the city. Nokia indicated approval of the demo would help it “enhance its efforts to design and develop equipment to meet the communications needs of our customers.”
The tests would use one of Nokia’s Flex small cells and six mobile units operating on spectrum in the CBRS band from 3.55 GHz to 3.7 GHz. The trial would take place between September 15, 2017, and March 15, 2018 “to allow time for setup, customer demonstrations/testing and breakdown of the equipment,” Nokia said.
The use of unlicensed spectrum for the tests isn’t exactly a surprise.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts has previously indicated the company’s wireless service will utilize both WiFi and cellular, relying on Comcast’s 15 million WiFi hotspots for primary coverage and Verizon’s network for cellular fallback via the aforementioned MVNO agreement. Roberts said that mix would allow Comcast to launch the service without the “kind of investment” that would otherwise be required for a mobile service.
The push to strengthen its network with small cells isn’t unusual either.
All four major U.S. wireless carriers are forging ahead with densification efforts. Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Jennifer Fritzsche recently noted one of the firm’s wireless experts estimated small cells will need to be installed every 200 meters. MoffettNathanson in its own research added “small cells can be expected to become increasingly attractive as an alternative to acquiring spectrum as time goes on.
According to SNS Research, industry-wide spending on deployments of small cells, distributed antenna systems (DAS), WiFi, and centralized RAN is expected to hit $15 billion this year.
Comcast rolled out its xFinity Mobile product back in May. Though it’s still early in the game, Comcast Cable CEO David Watson indicated on the company’s recent earnings call that customers thus far are actually eschewing unlimited data in favor of Comcast’s “By the Gig” offering. Still, Comcast could be looking to bolster its network in the event that more customers in the future fall in line with the wireless industry trend and do opt for unlimited.
Filed Under: Infrastructure