Squatting is the main problem with spectrum, not a looming shortage, say a pair of analysts at Citigroup. One can disagree with the analysis, as the researchers also make some claims that are a bit silly.
“Too much spectrum is controlled by companies that are not planning on rolling out services or face business and financial challenges,” wrote Jason Bazinet and Michael Rollins. “We do not believe the U.S. faces a spectrum shortage.”
Of course, by that assertion, they mean that spectrum now being used by 2G and 3G networks that would be more efficient if converted to 4G networks. That’s true, and also silly. Users on existing networks are paying for service. That spectrum cannot be converted to other uses until those customers stop using 2G and 3G and migrate to 4G. But that process is just beginning.
Also, much of the fallow currently licensed spectrum the analysts cite is held by Clearwire, which is having trouble getting customers for the spectrum it has activated, and which is still building its network. The so-called unused spectrum is unused for reason: customers cannot be found, yet.
The Federal Communications Commission is using the specter of a looming shortage to push through the redesignation of 120 MHz of broadcast spectrum for wireless broadband, the analysts say. Even so, plenty of spectrum remains undeveloped, Bazinet and Rollins said. Spectrum Control is Constraining Supply
“Today, U.S. carriers have 538 MHz of spectrum, and an additional 300 MHz of additional spectrum waiting in the wings. But only 192 MHz is in use today,” they said.
A majority of that spectrum is devoted to legacy service not likely to deliver more than 1 Mbps during usage peaks, compared to 5 Mbps for 4G, the latest data network technology. Bazinet and Rollins said if the full 538 MHz was converted to 4G, it could support 5 Mbps at 10 percent simultaneous usage. They noted, however, that the larger carriers couldn’t just sweep in with 4G because their networks are so occupied by legacy users. Study says plenty of spectrum
So why bother making the claims?