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Google asks FCC for wireless spectrum, but don't get too excited

The company has requested frequencies across the 2524-2546 and 2567-2625 MHz ranges. However, a source tells CNET that the testing isn't for delivering any service to consumers.

Google has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission for permission to apparently conduct testing on, well, something. But it's not a new wireless service that some have hoped it would be, CNET has exclusively learned.

Steven Crowley, a wireless engineer, discovered the application, which was filed by Google last week. The application asks for permission to test frequencies across the 2524 to 2546 MHz range and 2567 to 2625 MHz range. According to Crowley, those ranges are reserved for Educational Broadband Service and Broadband Radio Service. But here's the catch: Clearwire, a company that Google had owned a slice in until last year, uses the ranges for its mobile broadband service.

Predictably, that has prompted speculation over whether Google is testing its own wireless network. The company currently offers free Wi-Fi service in the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City and has been dipping its toe in the service waters with Google Fiber in Kansas City.

Google, however, has not provided any details on its plans in the FCC petition. The report is heavily redacted and includes only one exhibit outlining where it will place base stations to test the service in its Mountain View headquarters.

Given the relative inability of concrete information, some circumstantial evidence is being drawn to guess at Google's plans. The filing, for example, was authorized by Google Vice President of Access Services Milo Medin. The Access Services unit handles the Google Fiber and wireless initiatives.

However, the spectrum range in question currently does not work natively with any popular consumer devices, due to past regulations put in place by the FCC and due to Clearwire's own handling of the spectrum. In addition, a source with knowledge of Google's plans, has told CNET that the testing is just that. The source added that the search giant has no plans, at this time, to deliver a consumer-facing service with the spectrum.

So, what is Google up to with this testing? At this point, according to the source, it's nothing that consumers will end up using and falls in line with Access Services' charge of regularly testing wireless technologies.

Google declined CNET's request for comment.