Why mobile users should care about the spectrum crunch

There has been a lot of talk about spectrum; CNET has an interesting editorial on the matter.

 The CNET article includes some interesting numbers from AT&T on data use that illustrates what the carriers have said is a serious impending spectrum crisis. According to the article, since the release of the iPhone in 2007, AT&T reports that data use on its network had increased 8,000 by 2010. And that use just continues to grow.

 To help ease this spectrum crunch, the FCC has been granted approval to start auctioning off spectrum that was formerly allocated to television, satellite radio and even pagers. Our federal government also has significant spectrum, but much of it is currently unused. Some unused spectrum is also currently available through smaller carriers and stations, which is also on the radar of mobile providers.

 This is one of the primary reasons why we have seen moves towards consolidation in the telecom industry, including AT&T’s ill-fated attempt to merge with T-Mobile.  The industry is anticipating further attempts like this from the nation’s carriers, as acquisition of smaller carriers and even purchase of unused spectrum from cable companies, such as with what Verizon is doing, allows them to tap into more available spectrum resources.

Here in Wisconsin, this is an issue we should be aware of because of the work of one of our senators, Herb Kohl. Senator Kohl chairs the Senate Anti-Trust Sub-Committee and takes a very active role in hearings on mergers and acquisitions in this industry. In fact, today he scheduled a hearing on Verizon’s recent deal with cable companies for later this month. We’ll be keeping an eye on these developments with interest.

Is the spectrum crunch as dire as the CNET piece suggests? What do you think we should be doing? Is there a better way to approach this issue?

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