Amazon plans test of experimental wireless tech

Dive Brief:

  • Amazon completed FCC filings requesting permission to test experimental wireless technology in rural Washington and Seattle, according to Business Insider. While the purpose behind the tests is unknown, the filing said the project would involve prototypes to support “innovative communications capabilities and functionalities.”
  • Reporting by the International Business Times further speculated that Amazon might be working on a new Alexa smartphone.
  • Business Insider pointed out that the primary contact on the FCC filings is Neil Woodward, senior manager of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery division.

Dive Insight:

Although the purpose of the tests remains unknown, Woodward’s involvement is a strong indicator that Amazon’s drone program has some part in the experimental mobile tech. Amazon made its first drone delivery in December to a farmhouse in rural Cambridge, U.K., after three years under the Prime Air program. A drone delivery system stateside holds the potential to expand the company’s e-commerce capabilities, but will likely be limited to rural areas for the time being, as stringent FAA regulations limit drone air traffic. 

The filing also points to wireless services that might include Amazon’s Kindle devices, the Echo home digital assistant or an entirely new smartphone. Details from the FCC filing include requests for large amounts of mobile bands and the evaluation of antenna orientations and heights. The filing also stated that Amazon intends on testing 10 mobile units per location.

Amazon has released its own smartphone before, an effort deemed a major failure due to limited features and apps, a high starting price point and a variety of other snafus. However, Amazon has made great strides in developing its hardware devices in the time since, and its Alexa virtual assistant technology has shown to be a market leader, smarter and more robust than something like Apple’s Siri and more learned than newer offerings like Google’s Home assistant.