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.