Technology

CTIA Study: New Wireless Spectrum Slow to Reach Consumers

By / Jul 27, 2015 (iStock/Thinkstock)

Efforts to allocate wireless spectrum may not be completed as quickly as hoped, a recent study found. According to research by wireless-industry trade group CTIA, it may take as long as 13 years to go into general use by consumers.

To hear it from the mobile industry, the next frontier of wireless spectrum is a ways off.

Researchers from CTIA: The Wireless Association have found that it usually takes more than 10 years to go through the whole process of building the next level of wireless spectrum for consumers.

It takes between six and 18 years for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to give an order reallocating spectrum for wireless, setup the spectrum, and then allow deployment for consumer access. As a result, it generally takes an average of 13 years for new spectrum to reach consumers, the CTIA report reveals [PDF].

“Bringing new spectrum into the hands of wireless operators to provide broadband services to U.S. consumers takes a significant amount of time,” Thomas Sawanobori, CTIA’s senior vice president and chief technology officer, and Robert Roche, Ph.D., vice president of research and public affairs, wrote in the report.

A Growing Need

Today, most people rely on 3G and 4G networks.

While faster 5G networks are in the works, it’s going to take a lot of new infrastructure to get the wireless spectrum up to speed.

“By 2019, the U.S. will see a 78-fold increase in wireless data use over the 2010 level,” the CTIA study found. The researchers also emphasize that the Internet of Things will boost demand.

The FCC’s last wireless-spectrum auction hit $44.9 billion, a record level of money raised for licenses to access high-speed wireless service. But, according to CTIA, even this sizable sales figure may not be enough to provide the additional of 350 MHz spectrum that the industry will need by 2020.

“The 350 MHz target is daunting,” the report says.

Government Needs an Upgrade, Too

The lobbying group is looking to the government for more help in expanding wireless spectrum.

CTIA says the administration should address the time lag and its underlying problems, among them technical issues and a complicated filing process.

“Today, the federal government has sole or primary use of between 60-70 percent of spectrum suitable for wireless broadband,” the report states. “Given this fact, every Administration plays a key role in coordinating agencies’ efforts before, during, and after spectrum reallocation efforts.”

Federal officials, meanwhile, say they hope to use their regulatory work to boost the country’s global position.

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, has said the United States wants to be an “international leader” in 5G broadband networks, as it provides both an economic and technological advantage.

CTIA says the nation needs to take measures to reach that goal.

“When and how we introduce 5G in the United States depends in part on whether we keep our spectrum policy as forward-looking as our industry,” the report authors added.

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. More »

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