T-Mobile seeks tests of flying COWs - Mobile World Live

T-Mobile seeks tests of flying COWs

31 AUG 2018

T-Mobile US set its sights on the sky, requesting permission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to trial airborne small cell technology that can help restore mobile service in disaster situations.

The operator said it wants to test an unmanned aerial setup, known as a flying cell on wheels (COW), using AWS-3 spectrum. It said the drone-based cell would operate at altitudes of up to 400 feet, but be attached by a tether to T-Mobile buildings in Bellevue and Redmond, Washington. The tether will supply power to both the aircraft and a base station affixed to it.

T-Mobile said it will use Samsung phones and radio equipment from Nokia and Ericsson to test reception within a 10km radius of the airborne unit.

The goal is to assess whether T-Mobile can use the flying device “to restore or provide wireless services where terrestrial cell sites may not be feasible or available”.

Tests of similar drone technology have been conducted by all of T-Mobile’s major rivals, including its proposed merger partner, Sprint. AT&T took things a step further late last year, deploying its flying COWs in Puerto Rico to provide mobile service after Hurricane Maria wiped out terrestrial infrastructure on the island.

T-Mobile is now looking to do the same, noting in its application it wants to begin testing immediately to address the ongoing hurricane season and other situations where additional network capacity might be needed.

The operator is seeking a trial period of six months from the time it receives FCC approval.



Diana Goovaerts

Diana is Mobile World Live's US Editor, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market. Diana came to GSMA from her former role as Editor of Wireless Week and CED Magazine, digital-only...

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