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Freeing Additional Spectrum Could Save Wireless Carriers

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October 25, 2010

Freeing Additional Spectrum Could Save Wireless Carriers

By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor

At the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Spectrum (News - Alert) Summit in Washington DC last Thursday, the Commission released a white paper entitled “Mobile Broadband: The Benefits of Additional Spectrum,” which offers an insight into the looming spectrum crunch. Some key findings of this white paper indicate that within the next five years, the spectrum deficit is likely to approach 300 MHz. This spectrum crunch will be driven by significant growth of mobile broadband traffic, on the order of 35 times recent levels. Consequently, this mobile broadband growth is likely to outpace the current technology and network improvements.

Hence, more bandwidth is needed to handle this traffic growth. Freeing up additional spectrum could save wireless carriers about $120 billion in capital expenses, said FCC’s (News - Alert) white paper.

The government’s National Broadband Plan recognized the exponential growth of mobile data usage and recommended that the Commission make available 500 megahertz (MHz) of new spectrum for wireless broadband within ten years, including 300 MHz for mobile flexible use within five years. In addition, the President directed in a June 28, Executive Memorandum that 500 MHz of new spectrum be made available for mobile and fixed broadband use. 

In his opening remarks at the Spectrum Summit, FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski (News - Alert) stated, “The explosive growth in mobile communications is outpacing our ability to keep up. If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st Century, we’re going to run into a wall – a spectrum crunch – that will stifle American innovation and economic growth and cost us the opportunity to lead the world in mobile communications.”

FCC’s study demonstrates that the amount of mobile data demanded by American consumers is likely to exceed capacity of our wireless networks in the near-term, and that meeting this demand by making additional spectrum available is likely to create significant value for the mobile economy. In addition, new mobile broadband spectrum will support innovation in other important areas – such as breakthrough tools to improve education through mobile online learning, enhancing health care through potentially life-saving remote diagnostics, and promoting energy efficiency by supporting the smart grid.  

The National Broadband Plan noted that making new spectrum available has historically taken between six and 13 years. The looming spectrum crunch makes clear the need for timely action to realize the wireless economy of the future, said FCC.

Ashok Bindra is a veteran writer and editor with more than 25 years of editorial experience covering RF/wireless technologies, semiconductors and power electronics. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jaclyn Allard

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