The Future of Spectrum

Spectrum

By Annie Wilson, Intern

On The Hill July 21st, Meredith Attwell Baker, president of The Wireless Association (CTIA) gave an overview on the future of wireless spectrum in context of the increasing demand for smartphone wireless connection. In her piece, posted on the Congress Blog, Baker outlines the steps needed to ensure that the mobile broadband structure remains steady and reliable with increasing projected use over time.

Spectrum, for the majority who are unfamiliar with the concept, are the radio frequencies that allow for us to operate wirelessly and have access to all of the data we have at our disposal when using our smartphones. Smartphones run on and have their infrastructure built on spectrum; it is a necessary component of a smartphone’s basic operations.

Looking at today’s mobile climate, more than half of the internet traffic comes from mobile phones and the US leads the world in 4G services and applications. According to Baker, more than 1/3 of Americans claim that the first thing they do when they wake up in the morning is check their mobile device, before brushing their teeth and having a cup of coffee. By 2019, wireless companies estimate that this data-traffic will increase six-fold over record 2014 levels.

Some measures have already been taken to accommodate this trend. Wireless carriers continue to improve their networks and invest in their services (adding up to over $32 billion last year overall) and they aggressively deployed 4G LTE all over the country. However, in order to maintain this growing trend, more steps are needed to ensure spectrum security overtime; Congress has recognized this need.

In 2012, Congress directed the FCC to conduct an incentive auction in an effort to repurpose existing spectrum being used by broadcasters and as a test to market spectrum. However, instead of bidding on empty spectrum bands wireless providers have to meet the price of television broadcasters in order to free up spectrum. In order for this endeavor to succeed, Baker foresees three necessary steps:

  1. The FCC must maximize the amount of unused licensed spectrum made available
  2. The FCC must make an effort to minimize uncertainty when wireless companies are making bids. If companies are potentially investing billions in this spectrum, it requires the necessary due diligence on the part of the FCC to make sure that investors know what they’re bidding for.
  3. The FCC must make sure that wireless carriers can access their purchased spectrum as quickly as possible and without unnecessary hoops to jump through. Baker sees this as a necessary measure to instill confidence in their investors and promote the necessary participation in the auction for it to thrive and succeed.

Baker is hoping that this auction model will accommodate for the new generation and demand for mobile technology, while also raising billions to reduce the deficit.

To read the full article, please click here.

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