The Spectrum Crunch: Sorry, America, your wireless airwaves are full

“The U.S. mobile phone industry is running out of the airwaves necessary to provide voice, text and Internet services to its customers,” David Goldman reports for CNNMoney.

“The problem, known as the ‘spectrum crunch,’ threatens to increase the number of dropped calls, slow down data speeds and raise customers’ prices,” Goldman reports. “It will also whittle down the nation’s number of wireless carriers and create a deeper financial divide between those companies that have capacity and those that don’t.”

Goldman reports, “Wireless spectrum — the invisible infrastructure over which all wireless transmissions travel — is a finite resource. When, exactly, we’ll hit the wall is the subject of intense debate, but almost everyone in the industry agrees that a crunch is coming.”

“The iPhone, for instance, uses 24 times as much spectrum as an old-fashioned cell phone, and the iPad uses 122 times as much, according to the Federal FCC,” Goldman reports. “AT&T says wireless data traffic on its network has grown 20,000% since the iPhone debuted in 2007.”

Read more in the full article – recommended – here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “theloniousMac” for the heads up.]


        1. No, for the clueless Libtards out there, here it is nice and ssssllllloooooowwwwwww: it’s Barney’s Frank, Dodd, Maobama and friends backing Fannie and Freddie to make and force banks to give out loans to people who had no business borrowing money. Then forcing banks/financial institutions to buy those loans. This in turn caused the financial melt down. Taking over Freddie and Fannie in the first place was wrong.

          1. If your significant other cuddles up to you to entice sex do you go off on a rant about the soon to be re-elected President Obama?

            Just wondering. Maybe you need to get laid.

            1. The bankers made loans which were too big to people who were too poor, for property which was way overvalued. And the gatekeepers–credit rating organizations and the government either weren’t paying attention, distracted by political agendas or colluding.

              It is actually the first time in history that the banks did something that was counter to their best interests–loan money to people that were not credit worthy. But they thought they could “bundle” all those loans and sell them to someone else who would be left holding the bag. Problem is, all the banks thought they could do that and they were all left holding the bag.

              I’m sorry, it was actually average people who were left holding the bag as our taxes were used to bail out everyone and hardly anyone has been indicted in this whole mess.

            2. I know the story. I also know it is a symptom of the chink in the armor of Capitalism. It was Capitalism writ large. In a true free market economy, all those banks would be out of business.

              Now, as far as all these unworthy people partaking of the Capitalist system, why are they to blame. You have sellers and buyers in a Capitalist system. If the product is available, then you take the deal.

              My point was that some regulation is beneficial. To politically condemn all regulated parts of our economy is naive and disingenuous at best. I guess the original poster wants to only drive on toll roads. He doesn’t care that it took Enron only months to start ripping off people after energy de-regulation.

              Where are all those private energy companies now. I don’t hear them advertising.

          2. and who made all those poor brokers and bankers take the huge profits created before the house of cards fell. Doesn’t anybody care about those poor bastards forced to wallow in the misery caused by their profits? Oh the inhumanity!

      1. Rural electrification worked well as did the nation interstate system, the military protects us successfully, NASA put people on the moon and probes all over the solar system, Social Security has never missed a payment and Medicare delivers healthcare more efficiently than private health care and its costs are increasing more slowly. Given all that I think citizens working together (aka Government) could handle this.

  1. 20,000% is a big jump. I wonder how much of that they saw coming and how much of it hit them right between the eyes. It does explain why they are trying to cripple unlimited data for the “top 5%” of users, but it does not fully justify it.

    This also explains why the T Mobile purchase was necessary and why all the people who thought it was a bad idea were wrong. ATT is running out of space, and so it Verizon and soon so will Sprint, there is simply not enough capacity to distribute to an infinite number of different sub-carriers. Barring some radically new technology, consolidation is inevitable and necessary.

  2. Apple blew it spectacularly by not implementing UMA/GAN in the iPhone from the beginning, and FORCING the carriers to support it. The world would be quite different if it had figured this out.

    1. Apple couldn’t FORCE carriers to do anything at the beginning……they all had a crack at the iPhone….only AT&T gambled on it. No one realized how big of a game changer it would be. Once it was released and the world went crazy for it then the carriers were lining up but not in the beginning.

    2. How long, exactly, have you not been paying attention? Not even Apple predicted how the iPhone would kick off, and it wasn’t until the 3G came out that it really happened. They also had to use the technology that the networks used, otherwise the iPhone would have been dead in the water. Get a clue, dude.

  3. The answer might be the jumbled mess known as wi-fi, at least in urban areas (which is where the bandwidth is shrinking in the skies).

    Maybe there’s some money to be made in offering up wi-fi access points at various small businesses all over a city and charging a small (like $5 or $10 a month) charge to those want that as a back-up for ever slower cellular speeds. Perhaps business owners would get some free bandwidth for playing along or would install them for free as a courtesy to customers. Could be a viable business but only if the price to deploy is cheap enough (because no one will spend much per month just for a “back up” service).

    Otherwise, what we need is better compression technology so that less bandwidth is required to accomplish the same tasks. Smartphones are very immature market, so this is only going to get much worse.

  4. Of course the carriers could switch to 4G which uses the new bandwidth openned up from all those VHF analog channels that no longer exist.

    This is exactly why it was wrong to allow carriers to classify 3G-HSPA as 4G. Because now they have spent hoards of money enhancing old technology and building themselves into junk service providers whereas had they invested the same amount in real 4G and LTE solutions the needed spectrum would be better consumed and not so over provisioned.

    1. They will get additional bandwidth from UHF channels that TV stations are currently broadcasting on.

      An FCC chairman essentially said so about a year before the digital TV switchover. An article published in an industry trade mag quoted the FCC chairman about the FCC’s goals and the future of TV.

      As a result of the FCC’s planning and actions during the fifteen+ years prior to (and their involvement in) the digital switchover, one FCC goal has been the elimination of OTA broadcasting… and to see TV stations delivering content to viewers via cable, etc.

      A natural (and FCC intended) consequence of this will be the consolidation of broadcasters (fewer stations/channels)… and easier work for the FCC.

      Since the FCC is charged with watchdogging TV broadcasting and OTA broadcasting will no longer exist, the ultimate goal (as the FCC sees it) will necessitate the FCC becoming involved in the oversight of other means (cable, satellite and the internet) by which TV is delivered.

      Where the FCC has been held, thankfully so far, at arm’s length… and which has irritated FCC regulators no end.

  5. Another technological problem to solve that will be solved. Such is the way of encountering a tech wall and finding a way around it. Not like this hasn’t already happened hundreds if not thousands of times in technology.

    1. Or not. Their are very real physical limits as to why dialup modems never got faster than 56Kbps, and it wasn’t the telcos or the rise of broadband. Indeed, limited modems lead to the interest in broadband.

    1. This is total bullshit. There are plenty of technical work arounds. This is about lobbying to allow one or two companies to control what we watch and how we communicate. AT&T is now throttling “unlimited” customers who use as little as 2Gs. This is a fake problem. If iPhones are such a big problem, why did Sprint beg to get them? Why have I had no data problems with my Sprint phone? (And plenty with AT&T.) Why can Sprint give everyone real unlimited data, when they have a smaller network and less resources than AT&T?

  6. And why is it wrong that some company’s are better positioned than others? Look at Apple Corp, they ceated one industry and went bust. Wandered in the wilderness for a decade or two and has now reinvented three or four industries. If a company gets fat, it will be sacrificed on the alter of competition. Bandwidth problem solved


  7. If those who own websites would remove all the Flash and other eye candy that adds not one whit to user experience from their sites, we could claim a smaller footprint.

    Also, some websites refresh only part of a web page as necessary and others refresh the entire page. Seems to me that is wasteful of bandwidth.

    Efficiency is always cheaper than creating capacity and a few web standards could help a great deal,

  8. “…and the iPad uses 122 times as much, according to the Federal FCC,” Goldman reports.”

    At any one time, probably 99% of iPads use no cellular spectrum at all. They are either offline playing Angry Birds, etc, or using a WiFi system to connect.

    A good reporter would try to find out how much of the spectrum in being used at a typical time, and who is actually using it then. Not the theoretical potential impact of different devices.

  9. Here’s what Marty Cooper, father of the cell phone says in an interview:

    Carriers — particularly AT&T — and the FCC are all insistent that we’re all going into this spectrum crunch brought about by all this growth in smartphone data usage. Do you think it’s a fair assessment, or are there things that spectrum licensees aren’t doing already to squeeze everything they can out of the spectrum they have available to them?

    There has never been a scarcity of spectrum, and I suggest there never will be. Because as fast as the requirements happen, as people demand more and more spectrum, the technologists come up with answers.

    And you don’t think there’s a limit to that?

    Absolutely not. If in your reading, you haven’t encountered Cooper’s Law yet…

    I have. Every 30 months…

    Yes! I’m very flattered. If you draw that curve, it goes up indefinitely, and I guess the statement I make is that certainly for the next fifty years, we know enough about the technology to know that we can keep following that curve. Doubling the capacity of the spectrum, in effect, every two and a half years. And if that’s the case, it’s very likely that we will be able to keep up with the data requirements.

    It’s going to take other things as well. Other things, smart antennas… but every time you hear about what the engineers are thinking about — they’re offloading onto Wi-Fi when they have to, they’re developing more efficient applications. So it takes everything, but we are going to follow that exponential growth curve.

    And do you think that’s also dependent on freeing up additional spectrum ranges for carriers to use, or do you think the spectrum they already have available to them is sufficient?

    Just think about it. They’re thinking about giving carriers an incremental amount of spectrum of maybe ten percent. Cisco just estimated — they’ve been doing estimates every year — they say within the next three or four years we’re going to need twenty times the capacity. So you explain to me how adding ten percent more spectrum has any influence at all in solving a problem of twenty times. So, I think that’s the answer.

    So it’s more of a technology solution than a raw spectrum solution?

    Of course. The reason that carriers keep looking for more spectrum is that it’s in their blood. You own spectrum, you have a monopoly on that spectrum. People love monopolies, companies do. But we consumers don’t. I want more competition. I think T-Mobile can be successful, Sprint can be successful, but they won’t be successful playing the same game that AT&T and Verizon play. They’re going to have to figure out a strategy.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.