Last night, the FCC unanimously approved Verizon Wireless’s proposed purchase of unused spectrum owned by a consortium of cable companies. This is a very positive step to alleviate the looming spectrum shortage that threatens the future of our mobile economy.
We’re pleased that the FCC is taking steps to allow more spectrum to be used for mobile broadband. The 20 Mhz of spectrum purchased by Verizon Wireless has been lying fallow and can finally be put to use to meet growing consumer demand. The continued build-out of wireless capacity through measures like these is crucial for continued growth of mobile internet and data services as well as overall economic growth.
Smartphones and wireless internet availability have fostered incredible innovation, which touch all areas of the economy. Businesses and consumers have benefitted from a revolution in logistics as shippers can locate any package in transit; doctors can remotely monitor their patients’ health through mobile apps such as Airstrip; IT workers can remotely monitor the health of business networks; employees can participate in online business meetings, and students and professors can take part in online discussions, all wirelessly. Documents can now be stored and accessed from “the cloud,” with availability anywhere there is a mobile signal. And people can now access entertainment and news media anywhere at any time. But all of these applications require wireless bandwidth dependent on increasingly congested spectrum.
We’ve had the statistics in this space before: mobile apps are a $20B industry that didn’t even exist four years ago. 85% are written by small businesses. It’s estimated that the average 4G connection generated 28 times more traffic than the average non-4G connection. Mobile data traffic is further expected to increase 18-fold between 2011 and 2016. Our developers have not stopped innovating, and the devices our programs run on keep selling.
But opportunities for our members, and the larger mobile ecosystem, will be dashed if we do not find a way to quickly move additional spectrum into use. That’s why we see the FCC’s approval of the Verizon-cable deal and the Verizon-T-Mobile swap as good news because spectrum must be in the hands of those best able to make it available to the market, and a healthy secondary market in spectrum will make that spectrum useful more quickly.