Having enough spectrum available is vital to mobile broadband development, experts say

FCC set goal of freeing up 500 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband use

Having enough wireless spectrum available is vital to ensuring that mobile broadband continues to be an engine of economic growth, according to a panel of experts who spoke at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show being held here in Las Vegas this week.

Without that spectrum, the United States will lose that the economic benefits generated by mobile technology, warned Coleman Bazelon, principal with the Battle Group. He cited U.S. government estimates that every dollar invested in broadband infrastructure produces $10 in economic benefits.

Ari Fitzgerald, partner in the communications group of Hogan Lovells and former Federal Communications Commission official, said that spectrum is the key to continuing mobile broadband growth. Much of the prime spectrum for mobile broadband is held by the U.S. government and U.S. broadcasters, he noted.

He added that the FCC proposed to free up 500 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband through auctions, incentives for broadcasters to relinquish spectrum, and reallocation of government spectrum. In addition, the FCC freed up 20 MHz of spectrum allocated for mobile satellite services, for wireless terrestrial use.

Wireless spectrum for mobile broadband also needs to be allocated on a global basis.

Darrell West, director of government studies at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, said that by 2016, 80 percent of the broadband subscriptions around the world will be through mobile devices, and added that there will be 10 billion mobile devices in use around the world by then.

The panelists agreed that to continue this economic growth, governments need to make enough spectrum available to accommodate mobile broadband use. Otherwise, the economic potential for mobile broadband will not be realized.

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