FCC sees looming spectrum crunch

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released a detailed study which forecasts a shortage of available frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum in the face of the exponential growth of mobile data usage.

The Commission’s study, “Mobile Broadband: The Benefits of Additional Spectrum,” projects a spectrum deficit of nearly 300 megahertz within the next five years. According to the study, this deficit will be driven by significant growth in mobile broadband traffic, which is expected to increase as much as 35 times over current levels. Further, this growth is likely to outpace technology and network improvements designed to increase the efficiency of spectrum use, requiring prompt and definitive action to reallocate under-utilized airwaves.

On the positive side, the Commission’s study predicts that the provision of the necessary spectrum for expanded mobile broadband use will create $120 billion in additional spectrum value, and hundreds of billions more in total value to the overall U.S. economy.

The National Broadband Plan released earlier this year by the Commission called for the reallocation of 500 MHz of spectrum for wireless broadband within 10 years, including 300 MHz for use within the next five years. However, the plan notes that the reallocation of portions of the spectrum has historically taken between six and 13 years.

The complete text of the FCC’s forecast of mobile broadband spectrum use is available at http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1102/DOC-302324A1.pdf.