October 07, 2009, 5:40 PM — FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined a four-part strategy for U.S. wireless communications on Wednesday, focusing on additional radio spectrum, obstacles to 4G (fourth-generation) deployments, an open Internet and competition.
Genachowski's keynote address at the CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment conference in San Diego covered much ground that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has already started to address in a variety of initiatives since he took office in late June. But it articulated Genachowski's aims in the mobile arena, which he called central to the agency's mission.
He placed the need for additional spectrum at the top of his mobile agenda, echoing recent calls from the industry for more frequencies to meet exploding demand for mobile data.
"I believe the biggest threat to the future of mobile in America is the looming spectrum crisis," Genachowski said. Although the FCC has authorized a threefold increase in commercial spectrum in recent years, many observers expect a 30-fold increase in traffic, he said. A shortage of spectrum could hurt consumers and the country, he said.
"The less spectrum available for mobile broadband, the more service will cost and the longer it will take to make 4G ubiquitous," Genachowski said.
Also repeating recommendations from the industry, Genachowski said spectrum will have to be reallocated from other uses to mobile broadband. In a letter to the FCC last week, the CTIA asked the agency to make an additional 800 MHz of spectrum available for mobile broadband over the next six years.
Asked about the letter during a press conference following his keynote, Genachowski said his agency is taking input from many entities.
"Exactly how much spectrum we'll need to close the gap, we don't know yet, and that will be part of the ongoing processes that we'll run," Genachowski said.
In addition to reallocating frequencies, the FCC will promote more efficient use of existing spectrum, in terms of both devices and policy, he said. But the challenge of opening up new spectrum remains.
"It takes a long time to find and reallocate spectrum, and there are no easy pickings on the spectrum chart," Genachowski said.
The FCC will also act to break down barriers to 4G deployment, particularly the placement of towers. The agency will soon put forth a proposal to cut through red tape to speed up the process while taking into consideration the concerns of local authorities, Genachowski said.