Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FCC Spectrum Forecast Predicts 300 MHz Crunch by 2014

The United States is likely to face a spectrum deficit by 2014 as mobile broadband traffic soars by 35X in this 5-year period, according to a newly released technical and economic forecast from the FCC. Even if spectrum and device efficiency doubles and the number of cell towers continues to grow at its current pace, the country will need around 300 additional megahertz of spectrum in use by 2014 to accommodate this growing demand. The FCC estimates this near-term spectrum deficit to be 300 megahertz.

Earlier this year, the National Broadband Plan recommended that the FCC 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, 2010, Executive Memorandum that 500 MHz of new spectrum be made available for mobile and fixed broadband use. However, the process of re-purposing spectrum historically has taken at least 6-10 years.

The newly published forecast calculates 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.

Some key findings of the report include:

  • Within the next five years, the spectrum deficit is likely to approach 300 megahertz.

  • This spectrum crunch will be driven by significant growth of mobile broadband traffic, on the
    order of 35 times recent levels.

  • Mobile broadband growth is likely to outpace the ability of technology and network
    improvements to keep up by an estimated factor of three.

  • Meeting this need may create $120 billion in spectrum value, with hundreds of billions more in
    total value to the economy.

At a "Spectrum Summit" in Washington, D.C., FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated "If we act thoughtfully and execute on a strategic vision to ensure the highest and best use of this precious national resource, we can drive billions of dollars in private investment, fueling world leading innovations, creating millions of new jobs, and enabling endless new products and services that can help improve the lives of all Americans.

If we don't, we will put our country's economic competitiveness at risk, and squander the chance we now have to lead the world in mobile."