You might have heard the word ‘spectrum’ in the news lately. There’s a good reason for that. Spectrum is made up of radio frequencies that are allowing hundreds of millions of people like you to use wireless across the county. With all of us using smartphones, tablets, traditional cellphones and other wireless devices so much these days, demand for wireless spectrum is rapidly increasing. Many experts agree that we need more spectrum, and soon, to keep delivering the kind of wireless service we expect and want.
What is Spectrum?
You can’t see spectrum, but it’s what allows your wireless device to send and receive information instantly – and there’s a finite amount of it. The more advanced functionality of modern-day phones, such as streaming music, videos and downloading apps, requires larger amounts of spectrum for information to be transported than just what’s needed for voice calls.
An Analogy: Highway Lanes
It might be easier to understand the problem by seeing it this way. Think of wireless devices like vehicles, and spectrum like lanes on our nation’s highways. Over the last decade, we’ve experienced a tremendous increase in the number of ‘cars’ (devices), and in the amount of time they spend on our wireless ‘roads’ (the network). To meet consumers’ ever-growing demand, wireless providers need more ‘lanes,’ or spectrum. Without more spectrum, many experts believe we could be facing a significant wireless traffic jam in the near future.
The Looming Crisis
There’s no question that demand for wireless service is growing. Many analysts have made projections about how significantly that’s going to increase in the coming years. For example. Cisco’s Visual Networking Index has projected that wireless traffic alone will grow at least 56 times between 2009 and 2015. The wireless industry will need more spectrum than it currently has to keep up with that and make sure we get the quality of service we want.
Finding a Solution
Last year, Congress passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that included provisions to make a chunk of spectrum available for commercial use, which was a good first step. Much of that spectrum will most likely come from broadcasters and be offered in voluntary auctions. Another source of more spectrum is the federal government. No matter where it comes from, more spectrum is needed to satisfy the growing demand we all seem to have to use wireless services and products in our personal and professional lives. Many experts agree that more spectrum also means more jobs and investment, and that’s good news for our economy. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. Congress, the President, and the wireless industry all believe that we need to address this situation and find a way to make more spectrum available, sooner rather than later.