Evidence suggests Amazon could be pretending to be a massage parlour to avoid attracting attention to a new network it is testing in Silicon Valley, applying for radio permits under a variety of names.
The FCC has taken a chunk of spectrum (at 3.5Ghz) from the military and opened it up for commercial public use. It is hoped that CBRS as it's called – Citizens Broadband Radio Service (nothing to do with the CB radio) – will improve in-building access, and it is also hoped that private LTE and 5G networks will flourish here. Customers at retail MNOs like Verizon will be able to use it with consumer smartphones that support the frequency. It's supported by telco gear vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia, as well as computer industry stalwarts like Intel and Qualcomm.
So tests are under way, with over 15,000 site applications. Great sleuthing by Mark Harris at the IEEE's Spectrum has trawled through public filings and traced some applications back to areas where buildings owned by Amazon's secretive Lab126 R&D division stand.
The theory is that, to string together its network, Amazon applied in California under the name Chrome Enterprises, and at three locations close to, but not at, Amazon facilities. Amazon and Chrome Enterprises did not comment.
One such facility was a massage parlour on Stevens Creek Boulevard offering skin care treatment and "Total Body Stretch".
Chrome Enterprises does not appear to have a presence in California - but Amazon does. "Cupertino's branch of MassageEnvy is fewer than 500 meters from a satellite Lab126 building, called SJC3," noted Harris. The application indicates a 2km radius.
Another innocent application seems to face a giant Amazon fulfilment centre. Lab126 produced the Kindle and Fire tablets for Amazon, and describes itself as an "inventive R&D" lab. It's a mystery why Amazon, if it is indeed Bezos's firm, should be so secretive, but then this is public airwaves. You don't know who's listening in.
You can find out more about CBRS from the trade group behind it here – or even find out how to set up your own super-secret network yourself. ®