US launches effort to ease 'spectrum crunch'

Sep 29, 2012 by Rob Lever
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski speaks at a news conference in April 2012. US regulators voted Friday to begin a process to reallocate some of the broadcast spectrum to meet surging demand from smartphones, tablets and other devices that use the wireless Internet.

US regulators voted Friday to begin a process to reallocate some of the broadcast spectrum to meet surging demand from smartphones, tablets and other devices that use the wireless Internet.

The formally approved the plan to launch so-called incentive auctions, which will allow broadcasters to sell off some of their spectrum rights to mobile broadband operators starting in 2014.

"This is a big deal," Julius Genachowski said.

"Today, the US becomes the first nation in the world to launch incentive auctions" for mobile broadband, he said, adding that this would make available portions of prime "beachfront spectrum" for these uses.

The move comes with the United States and other nations bracing for a data crunch from the surging use of smartphones, tablets and other , clogging the allocated for mobile broadband.

Officials say that as mobile broadband is surging, need less spectrum because fewer viewers watch over-the-air television.

The concept is part of the National Broadband Plan to spur , and the ideas are embraced in legislation that was signed into law in February 2012, the noted.

The FCC said action is needed to avert a crunch that will slow down or disconnect mobile devices.

"Today's smartphones use 35 times more spectrum than traditional cell phones, and tablets use 121 times as much spectrum," the FCC statement said.

"This consumer demand puts a tremendous strain on the nation's invisible infrastructure in ways that require innovative new approaches to spectrum policy in order to spur continued , and help maintain America's global leadership in mobile."

The statement said the auctions would "unleash a wave of economic innovation opportunities" for the United States while relying on market forces to determine the use of spectrum.

"This incentive auction is expected to deliver enormous benefits for the American people and the US economy," the statement said.

"The mobile apps economy barely existed in 2009 but today, it supports nearly 500,000 jobs. The wireless industry contributes about $150 billion annually to US GDP and that number is growing."

A statement from the CTIA-The Wireless Association, which represents mobile carriers, hailed the FCC move.

The action is "an important step toward alleviating the looming spectrum crisis that we've been warning policymakers about for the last three years," said CTIA president and chief executive Steve Largent.

"Since spectrum is a finite resource, we're pleased the Commission has begun the process of establishing the rules that will fulfill the goals of the recently adopted, bipartisan spectrum legislation," he said.

But Largent added it is crucial not to allow the process to get bogged down.

"In order to maintain our global leadership in the mobile ecosystem, we must ensure that this spectrum is brought to market more quickly than the almost 10 years it took to bring the last two spectrum blocks to market," he said.

The European Union is mulling a similar effort to reallocate spectrum.

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User comments : 10

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verkle
1 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2012
This is great news. Hope the change can happen fast.

winthrom
3.3 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2012
The FCC has eliminated spectrum that once carried Television up to 75 miles from the broadcast tower. This spectrum was replaced by different TV spectrum that makes about 30 miles range. This was no accident. This latest plan (see article above) is to use the 75 mile spectrum for pay services. The now antiquated TV services were replaced by pay services, Cable TV) because over the air free 75 mile TV services were made inadequate by the FCC. Thus we see that the FCC made the cable industry more successful than they should be and is now using the spoils of that treachery to make another industry rich. BTW, the "sale" price of the spectrum is very small compared to the profits it will provide the "lucky" buyers. Free television is almost extinct. Ever wonder why the poor are dropping out of elections? How about thinking "No longer able to afford information from free speech". Free speech in a park, sure, but to most poor Americans over the air, "Pay up or be ignorant".
Caliban
5 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2012
Essentially a land grab made upon The Commons, facilitated by our government, and designed to benefit the Corporocrat Class.

There was no "spectrum crunch", as recent advances have made it possible to AT LEAST DOUBLE traffic over any defined bandwidth -via simultaneous send/receive.

I don't know if any of you have noticed, but the quality of the currently available content has been volume-diluted to near meaninglessness already --so increasing it by an order of magnitude certainly isn't going to enhance the available offerings.

No, this is just license to peddle even that much more mindless drivel for just that much more money over just that much more bandwidth, while existing bandwidth traffic gets doubled in order to peddle that much more mindless drivel for that much more money.

The net effect of this porkbarrel auction will be just as @winthrom states --pay to play citizenship.

Learn to fear it now --it'll be too late when you find yourself demoted to "untouchable" status.

Meyer
4.5 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2012
Free television is almost extinct. Ever wonder why the poor are dropping out of elections? How about thinking "No longer able to afford information from free speech". Free speech in a park, sure, but to most poor Americans over the air, "Pay up or be ignorant".

Television is a horrible source of information, and it is only "free speech" for the same corporations that you were just complaining about. Maybe poor people would make better decisions if they weren't exposed to television at all. I know that selling my last TV in 1995 defogged my brain a bit.
winthrom
1.5 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2012
@Meyer: Television is, as you say, "... a horrible source of information..." however it was once universally free, making it the cheapest (to the consumer) source of information. For the poor, "free" means "accessible". The basis of freedom is an informed citizenship. While you dumped TV, I am sure you still listen to the radio, otherwise you are a hermit.

The radio preceded TV as the family gathering place and source of information. Today radio is both a source of information and misinformation, but it is still free. (BTW there is some talk of dumping AM radio to free up even more spectrum.) Please note that although HD radio increases radio station variety on FM, it too has a much shorter reach. Also note that your new car will most likely have an AM/FM/XM (pay for service) radio than an AM/FM/HD radio. My new Hyundai, and several new cars I looked at before I bought it, all had XM and dealers would not swap for HD.

All in all, @Caliban's comments sum it up. BEWARE!
Meyer
4 / 5 (2) Sep 29, 2012
The basis of freedom is an informed citizenship. While you dumped TV, I am sure you still listen to the radio, otherwise you are a hermit.

I am a hermit, but that's not why I avoid TV and radio. I stream audio and video quite a bit. Suppose people watched videolectures.net for 8 hours a day instead of New Jersey Gaga or whatever is the latest mental mushmaker.

I'm not against radio waves. I had a ham radio license for 10 years, which is closer to your vision of using the spectrum for free speech, though it has been superseded by the Internet. Sadly, not enough people cared to spend a week reading a book and practicing Morse code to converse with geeks. It's more enjoyable to watch a beautiful woman read sponsored news from a teleprompter, and pretend to be informed by it.

I do agree that the FCC does harm with its monopoly auctions. Wireless technology would have advanced more rapidly if everyone could have broadcasted whatever they wanted on any frequency from day one.
winthrom
1 / 5 (1) Sep 29, 2012
"I had a ham radio license for 10 years, which is closer to your vision of using the spectrum for free speech,"

This tool gave you a podium to speak to other technologists, ham operators, not to poor non-tech savvy Americans. Also, those poor Americans could not speak back to you.

I built crystal sets when I was a child. I never got a ham license, but helped engineer a software defined radio for DoD a few years ago. We techno-geeks do not see how rare the atmosphere is we live in compared to the high school dropouts and tech school trained folks that are our fellow Americans. I believe that an informed electorate begins with freely available information, unhindered by the cost of admission. Those of us who have climbed the economic ladder can use the expensive technologies of our time, but the technologically challenged poor cannot. Still, these folks have the right to participate in our democracy with as much information as you or me.

The FCC fails to see this imperative.
Meyer
not rated yet Sep 30, 2012
This tool gave you a podium to speak to other technologists, ham operators, not to poor non-tech savvy Americans. Also, those poor Americans could not speak back to you.

That's why I say it's too bad more people didn't take interest and try it. But now we have the Internet, and most of those poor Americans are already using it.

We techno-geeks do not see how rare the atmosphere is we live in compared to the high school dropouts and tech school trained folks that are our fellow Americans. I believe that an informed electorate begins with freely available information, unhindered by the cost of admission.

I agree, but TV is not free in any sense, and it's not information. An electorate "informed" by the nightly news and campaign commercials is not informed at all. Let them dig deeper and see there is more to an issue than the two establishment talking points. Let's clear out the dead weight that is TV and make information even more widely available. (And Britney, too!)
alfie_null
not rated yet Sep 30, 2012
What a disappointing bunch of doublespeak.
How is the U.S. judged to have global leadership in mobile? The level of marketing? I'm not at all satisfied with the value I can get from cell phone service providers in the U.S.

I wonder what uses CTIA members envision for this spectrum? In densely populated areas, two-way wouldn't be efficient, but I imagine it might be useful for streaming live events, which could be multicast to smart phone recipients. They could conveniently piggy-back the streams on existing TV station transmissions.

Thus consumers would see free TV channels replaced with for-pay of similar content. Restricted to only what some particular provider offers. At a premium, if the provider can get away with it. And probably still including commercials.
Urgelt
not rated yet Sep 30, 2012
They're funneling the spectrum into the hands of a handful of monopolists.

The idea that the atmosphere is a 'commons' has been shrunk again.

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