FCC seeks more wireless spectrum for mobile broadband data networks

The FCC is looking to free up to 500 megahertz of spectrum for wireless broadband over the next ten years and it will try to buy the airwaves from broadcasters. The move would help avert what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski calls a “spectrum crisis” that could leave data-hungry mobile devices like the iPhone, Droid, and 3G-enabled laptops starving for wireless data

AT&T, for example, has seen a 5,000% increase in mobile data usage over the last three years thanks to the iPhone. Existing airwave holders like Fox, NBC, and ABC will be able to voluntarily give up spectrum for a cut of the auction proceeds. Genachowski is also looking to cut the regulatory red tape that is required for carriers to roll out these new services, which should make AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon very happy.

“Spectrum – our airwaves – really is the oxygen of mobile broadband service,” Genachowski said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “Without sufficient spectrum, we will starve mobile broadband of the nourishment it needs to thrive as a platform for innovation, job creation and economic growth.”

It’s not going to be easy though because the broadcasters don’t appear eager to give up spectrum. In an official response to the FCC, the National Association of Broadcasters said its members are the most efficient spectrum users and that local TV stations just gave up about a quarter of spectrum in the digital TV transition.

I think the proliferation of mobile broadband is the next-generation highway system, that is, infrastructure that sets the nation up for long-term growth. I understand sheer land size is an issue but it’s embarrassing how far the United States lags behind other countries in broadband penetration and speeds. Opening up more spectrum will also mean a faster rollout of WiMax and LTE and then we’ll really start seeing some innovative developments in the mobile world. It’s going to be hard to pry away spectrum from the broadcasters, but it’s something that has to be done.

[Via FCC (RTF doc)]

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