[telecom] Carriers Warn of Crisis in Mobile Spectrum

Carriers Warn of Crisis in Mobile Spectrum

By BRIAN X. CHEN April 17, 2012

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint say they need more radio spectrum, the government-rationed slices of radio waves that carry phone calls and wireless data.

The wireless carriers say that in the next few years they may not have enough of it to meet the exploding demands for mobile data. The result, they ominously warn, may be slower or spotty connections on smartphones and tablets. They imply in carefully couched language that, given the laws of supply and demand, the price of cellphone service will soar.

It will affect "the services they're paying for because of the capacity issues," said Ed McFadden, Verizon's vice president for policy communications. "It potentially hinders our ability to meet consumer need."

But is there really a crisis? Some scientists and engineers say the companies are playing a game that is more about protecting their businesses from competitors.

Not even the inventor of the cellphone, Martin Cooper, is convinced that the wireless industry faces a serious challenge that cannot be overcome with technology. Mr. Cooper, a former vice president of Motorola and chairman of Dyna L.L.C., an incubator for new companies, says that claims of a so-called spectrum crisis are largely exaggerated.

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***** Moderator's Note *****

The article quotes an FCC spokesman saying that the FCC has to "Unleash" more spectrum. When government employees start parroting the hype of the industry they are supposed to regulate, it's time to unleash the Professional Standards department.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
Monty Solomon
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While technology will undoubtedly squeeze more bandwidth out of radio, it is still a finite resource, as opposed to landlines. As demand grows for mobile voice and data services, there will be a squeeze on the available radio spectrum. Just as the landline web exploded far beyond simple text-based hyperlinks into the highly complex websites of today, 'smartphone' oriented websites will grow in complexity, too.

The BSTJ articles cited below say the minimum cell radius is one mile. Whether today's technology can shrink that further I don't know, but radio wave propagation has vagaries that have to be accomodated.

What I don't understand is why companies like Verizon are apparently neglecting their legacy landline business. Given their steep local rates and that most landline services are deregulated, I doubt they're losing money. However, they seem to be neglecting repair and maintenance of legacy facilities and not interested in the technical expertise their legacy employees have about providing telephone service.

Also, it amazes me that consumers are willing to accept the significantly lower voice quality of cellphones compared to landline phones. Calls still drop out and voices can be garbled. Also, I'm confused how consumers are content to view WWW content and television shows on a 2" x 3" screen--to me, that's much too small.

I don't believe Mr. Cooper "invented the cellphone". Rather, he was the inventor of the _handheld_ mobile telephone set, as opposed to a mobile telephone mounted in an automobile. Also, AFAIK, he did not invent the cellular system which allows far more conversations than the previous technology.

The "Cellular" concept may have originated by D. H. Ring of Bell Labs in a 1947 unpublished work. The concept of automatic handoff and band selection was utlized in the Penn Central Metroliner telephone service of 1969.

BSTJ, January 1979, on development and implementation of cellular technology:

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The following article describes the history, including FCC frequency allocations:

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***** Moderator's Note *****

What scares me is that I'm an Amateur Radio licensee, and ham operators are likely to be the first targets of the cellular industry's desire for more bandwidth. Hams don't have the political muscle to hold off any attempt to reassign Amateur Radio allocations, and all the other players *do*.

Bill Horne Moderator

Reply to
HAncock4

Not completely true. The last issue or so of QST (Publication of ARRL [Amateur Radio Relay League]) detailed some of the behind the scenes work that resulted in a new ham band a bit below 500kHz.

Are you an ARRL member Bill? I just joined after upgrading to extra. Been a ham since 1957.

Reply to
Rich Greenberg

Well, that's nice as far as it goes, but 500 KHz isn't exactly "prime" real estate these days, since it's not useable for cellular. A quarter-wave antenna for 500 KHz is 468 feet (142.5 Meters) high, which is a bit long for most cellular phones to use.

As frequency goes up, the antenna size goes down, and a cellular phone running at 800 MHz only needs about 3 1/2 inches (8.9 cm) for a full-length "whip" antenna. That's a lot easier to fit in a purse than a 468-foot piece of wire. Ergo, cellular companies want "UHF" frequencies, and hams have assignments in UHF which will now be sought after. The point is that it's easy for the FCC to give out more bandwidth at 0.5 MHz, but it's the bands above 500 MHz which are now more in demand.

I've been a Life Member since 1972.

Bill, W1AC

P.S. I have somewhat simplified the comparison above. There are other factors, but the antenna lengths are real.

Reply to
Bill Horne

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