On Wednesday, Amazon.com Inc filed a petition asking the FCC for permission to test wireless communications technology in Washington. Business Insider first broke the story this weekend after finding details about the document in the public records.
While Amazon tried to start the tests quietly, online outlets have already started making theories about it.
It does not help that, among the filings’ description, the company lists “fixed-base transmitters and mobile units.”
What many believe is that Amazon is trying to establish a reliable wireless network to control the Prime Air flock of delivery drones, but some rumors suggest the experiments may be the foundation for something even larger.
Amazon test could signal the beginning of U.S. drone deliveries
Neil Woodward, a former NASA astronaut, and head of Amazon Prime Air, was the person who filed the petition to the FCC on behalf of the company.
As chief of the air-based delivery service, Woodward has overseen the successful launch of the drone delivery modality in the United Kingdom, soon expected to hit homes across America.
However, in order to do this, considerable efforts need to be made first. Drone flights with commercial purposes require extensive testing since they involve direct contact with third-party civilians and they even need to comply with some FAA regulations.
The trials would last five months, and the transmitters would be active only “five minutes per hour per day per week on any specific channel or band,” according to FCC documents.
Amazon could be planning an Alexa powered smartphone or to become an ISP
While the connections between Neil Woodward, the requirement, and the nature of the tests seem to paint a pretty clear picture, some try not to discard other options in terms of defining the real motives of Amazon.
Some believe Amazon may be thinking about entering the wireless provider game, either as a mobile carrier or a home internet service. A drone-based network does not seem so far-fetched, especially after Google trying out its air balloon-based service and the hybrid Google Fiber.
Others think the online retail giant may be trying a new mobile device different from its Fire tablet lineup: A smartphone. Amazon could be setting up secret tests to avoid revealing information about an Alexa-powered handset, but at this point, that is just a rumor.
More grounded theories suggest Amazon may not go big with a service or a new flagship smartphone at first, but it could be trying out a proprietary network to support mobile connections on brand devices like Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets.