Cisco sounds alarm on upcoming airwave shortage to affect mobile devices
Brace yourself. Cisco Systems says we'll be facing a nationwide airwave shortage by the end of the year that will affect mobile devices, including cellular phones and tablets. The good news is the FCC is looking at several ways to address the problem.
Mike Freeman, business columnist at UTSanDiego.com, explains that the sheer volume of data being wirelessly shared, streamed and downloaded over the airwaves (also called spectrum), threatens to overwhelm its existing capabilities. "A spectrum crunch could mean big changes for smartphone and tablet users, including dropped calls, clunky Web browsing, slower apps and tighter data caps on monthly wireless plans," says Freeman.
Wireless companies like AT&T and Sprint are proactively buying up more spectrum but the available supply will eventually dry up. James Q. Crowe, CEO of Level 3 Communications, takes issue with the idea that wireless cellular providers are allowed to make such purchases in the face of a coming spectrum shortage and says the FCC should intervene.
"Unfortunately, the FCC, notwithstanding more than seven years of 'investigation,' has failed to act," says Crowe. "The dominant carriers are allowed to maintain and entrench their dominant market shares for wired connections through regulatory inertia. Like so much else in Washington, powerful companies can slow or prevent needed reform by employing clever lobbyists who are expert at an effective array of delaying tactics."
Interestingly, TV broadcasters have a surplus of spectrum and the FCC is considering financial incentives to part with what they're not using. Broadcasters acknowledge they have more spectrum than they need but are reluctant to part with it in case they think up better ways to use it.
As the FCC works on ending the standoff with TV broadcasters, it also plans to hold auctions to encourage the release of more spectrum into the commercial wireless market.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has ordered federal agencies to release--over the next 10 years--a large portion of the spectrum it currently uses.