FCC and CTIA Agree: More Spectrum!

The CTIA Wireless Association has issued a statement to the FCC asking it to “find” an addition 800 Mhz of spectrum. The CTIA says commercial cellular operators need 800 MHz of spectrum by 2015. Currently, the entire cellular industry uses only about 410 MHz.

The CTIA also asked the feds to immediately open up 50 MHz for commercial wireless services immediately.

The CTIA’s top lobbyist, Chris Guttman-McCabe wrote in the ex-parte filing pdf:


“Without swift and bold action by U.S. policymakers to free up a critical national resource — our nation’s airwaves — consumers and businesses in this country will find themselves unable to reap the full benefits of the mobile broadband age.”

“…As the Chairman and other FCC Commissioners understand, spectrum is our industry’s backbone and is what encourages innovation and competition,” said CEO Steve Largent. “The industry needs access to more spectrum so we can continue to meet the growing consumer demand – whether it’s for personal reasons such as health or for environmental reasons such as smart grids”.

That request came as the FCC was preparing its mid-term report on the national broadband plan (pdf and slides).

The total cost of developing a universal broadband plan for the United States could run as high as $350 billion, but the plan would produce major economic and social benefits ranging from improving healthcare and education, according to the report.

The huge price tag dwarfs the $7.2 billion earmarked in President Obama’s economic stimulus program. The task force estimated universal broadband deployment costs would range between $20 billion and $350 billion. The highest figure calls for providing service at 100 Mbps or faster.

The report, prepared to help FCC commissioners develop a national broadband plan for Congress, was prepared after information and suggestions were acquired from about 230 witnesses who presented evidence and opinion at 26 hearings and workshops. In addition to laying the groundwork for the February report to Congress, the report discussed the present state of broadband in the United States.

The task force was clear on the issue of spectrum — much more is needed, particularly as smartphone sales overtake sales of standard phones by 2011.

“Actual broadband speeds lag advertised speeds by at least 50% and possibly more during the busy hours,” according to the report. “Peak usage hours, typically 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., create network congestion and speed degradation. About 1% of users drive 20% of traffic, while 20% of users drive up to 80% of traffic.”

Where will they find spectrum? The DOD is probably worried that they’ll be the first target of opportunity. And why not — the military uses more commercial satellite phone and commercial fixed satellite time than any commercial user. They don’t seem to worry about security using commercial satellite links. With encryption, terrestrial links could also be shared.

The US Military Paid $80M for Iridium Services. Marines deployed inland, communicate back to sea using Iridium. The DOD buys contracts from all the cellular operators. Meanwhile the $100B JTRS radio program squandered billions while the $20B Transformation Communications Satellite System, it might be argued, has been a stark failure.

The DOD now spends hundreds of billions building proprietary radio networks that just don’t work. With the right plan, lightly used shared frequencies might be used by public service, DOD and commercial users, benefiting everyone.

The CTIA (wikipedia) primarily represents the interests of wireless telecommunications companies. Their board is a mix of service providers, manufacturers and wireless data companies, as well as other contributors to the wireless industry.

Posted by Sam Churchill on .

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