April 25, 2012, 9:28 PM — In case you haven't heard yet, the nation's wireless carriers want more spectrum.
Because even though Congress authorized a fresh batch of spectrum auctions in the coming years, carriers say they'll need even more to meet the mobile data demands of users streaming high-definition video and other bandwidth-intensive content over their newly launched LTE networks. So when you head to CTIA in New Orleans starting on May 8 this year, you can expect to hear a lot about ways to free up more spectrum for mobile data use.
"You're going to be hearing more from carriers about the things they can do with more spectrum," says Steve Largent, the president and CEO of CTIA. "We are falling behind because other countries are rolling out new spectrum for their wireless carriers and we don't want to fall behind."
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) has projected that growth in wireless data demand will lead to a "spectrum deficit" of 275MHz if no new spectrum is released by 2014. There is currently 547MHz of spectrum available for dual use in mobile voice and data services. With this in mind, the FCC has set a goal to make 300MHz of spectrum available for wireless broadband use over the next five years with the eventual goal of freeing up 500MHz of spectrum by the end of 2020. The newly authorized spectrum auctions, which will let broadcasters voluntarily put pieces of spectrum up for sale, is projected to add about 120MHz of new spectrum for wireless broadband use, so it's clear that the FCC and CTIA have a long way to go to meet their goals.
Largent says the industry is trying to lobby the government to auction off spectrum that it is currently sitting on, starting with a 25MHz tranche of spectrum in the range of 1755MHz to 1780MHz. Largent notes that the government also has spectrum spanning from 1780MHz through 1850MHz and 2155MHz through 2180MHz that could be used for mobile broadband if the government chose to auction it off.