FCC Says Freeing Up Spectrum Would Save $120 Billion

Warning that soaring broadband use could deplete the nation’s available airwaves by 2013, the Federal Communications Commission dangled dollar signs in front of corporate America’s eyes Thursday to spur development of additional spectrum.

A report by the agency said adding another 275 megahertz of spectrum would save carriers $120 billion in capital expenses to beef up networks for mobile-data demand.

Crunch Time

“The explosive growth in mobile communications is outpacing our ability to keep up,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in his opening remarks at a Washington, D.C., Spectrum Summit with representatives of major communications companies. “If we don’t act to update our spectrum policies for the 21st century, we’re going to run into a wall — a spectrum crunch — that will stifle American innovation and economic growth and cost us the opportunity to lead the world in mobile communications.”

In a white paper presented at the conference, the FCC estimated broadband use will soar to 35 times today’s level by 2014, potentially creating a deficit of 300 megahertz. The figure of $120 billion is based on seven percent annual growth in investment in cellular sites, which cost about $550,000 each.

But the clock is ticking. The government’s 300-plus-page National Broadband Plan, submitted to Congress in March, estimated that it historically takes between six and 13 years to create new spectrum.

The FCC wants to formalize rules to allow broadcasters to give up some of the spectrum they control in exchange for proceeds from licensing fees to wireless carriers. It also wants to ease restrictions to allow testing of new protocols, including white-spaces broadband, which taps the underutilized frequencies in between broadcasters’ channels for Wi-Fi.

Challenge To Policy-Makers

CTIA – The Wireless Association, which represents the communications industry, welcomed the FCC’s attention to the issue.

“The era of mobile broadband services offers tremendous opportunities for U.S. consumers and…

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