Cable operator Altice USA requested permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct mobile testing in the 3.5GHz band as it gears up to launch wireless service in 2019.

Starting 1 September, Altice said it wants to run indoor and outdoor trials using prototype small cells and user devices from Ericsson, Nokia, Airspan Networks, Arris subsidiary Ruckus Wireless and Berkeley Varitronics Systems. The cells will operate between 3650MHz and 3700MHz, with access to the shared band provided by an FCC-approved spectrum access system vendor.

All told, the operator filed for permission to trial 88 small cells at a test location in Deer Park, New York. It expects to wrap up experimental work by 28 February 2019.

Altice said the goal of the project is to “evaluate propagation characteristics for different type[s] of setups, data throughput performance, inter-cell mobility and advanced spectrum access system functionality”. It added the data gleaned will “help us better understand the full potential” of the technology used in the study.

The company’s decision to explore 3.5GHz, known in the US as the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), comes as it prepares to launch a mobile play via an MVNO agreement with Sprint. Tapping the CBRS band would give Altice access to spectrum it can use to augment the wireless service provided through the agreement.

Other cable operators including Comcast and Charter Communications have similarly deployed wireless services under separate MVNO agreements with Verizon. In July, Charter Communications revealed it is trialling LTE small cells at 3.5GHz with the aim of enhancing its mobile infrastructure.