This week could end up being a good week for American consumers and the U.S. economy. Specifically, it looks like House and Senate conferees may strike a deal on payroll tax legislation that includes landmark spectrum reform provisions – led by new authority to conduct voluntary incentive auctions. This potential good news couldn’t come sooner. As I have argued for almost three years now, our country needs more spectrum now to continue to fuel the mobile broadband revolution.
Here at CTIA, we continue to commend our nation’s leaders in Congress and the Administration for recognizing the need to bring new spectrum resources to market. At the same time, we have argued that it is not enough to recognize the spectrum shortage – we need action. Cisco’s latest mobile data forecast once again underscores this need.
Cisco’s Forecast Projects Continuing, Mind Boggling, Mobile Broadband Growth
Cisco has just released its Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2011–2016. The growth is staggering. Among the most interesting projections in the U.S. market forecast:
- U.S. mobile data traffic will grow 16-fold from 2011 to 2016, a compound annual growth rate of 74%.
- U.S. mobile data traffic will reach 1,744,580 Terabytes (1.74 Exabytes) per month in 2016, the equivalent of 436 million DVDs each month or 4,808 million text messages each second.
- U.S. mobile data traffic will grow 4 times faster than U.S. fixed IP traffic from 2011 to 2016.
- U.S. mobile data traffic in 2016 will be equivalent to 4x the volume of the entire U.S. Internet in 2005.
- In the United States, the average mobile connection will generate 4,008 megabytes of mobile data traffic per month in 2016, up 1,157% from 319 megabytes per month in 2011, a CAGR of 66%.
The report offers further evidence of what we know today – that we need to find ways to make more spectrum available to meet the growing demand.
I’m hopeful last night’s news means we are close to achieving a key goal for industry, consumers and the economy. New authority for the FCC to conduct voluntary incentive auctions that will repurpose broadcast spectrum for mobile broadband purposes, as well as a focus on the reallocation of government spectrum, will give our wireless industry and our economy a shot in the arm.
As my boss Steve Largent has said, these spectrum provisions “will make a substantial down-payment toward alleviating the looming spectrum crisis.”
With last night’s announcement about a potential deal, it looks as if Congress may act on payroll tax legislation that includes spectrum legislation. All this couldn’t happen at a better time. As the President noted in his budget:
The advances in wireless technology and the adoption of and reliance on wireless devices in daily commercial and personal life have been dramatic. High-speed, wireless broadband is fast becoming a critical component of business operations and economic growth. The United States needs to lead the world in providing broad access to the fastest networks possible. To do that, however, requires freeing up of transmission rights to underutilized portions of the spectrum currently dedicated to other private and Federal uses.
When you combine the work by Members of Congress on both sides of Capitol Hill with the statements from the President, one could logically assume that all of Washington is moving together toward the reallocation of a significant amount of spectrum to fuel this robust ecosystem. However, that may not be the case. Oddly, the Department of Defense just issued a letter opposing provisions in the payroll tax legislation that would repurpose the 1755-1780 MHz and 3550-3650 MHz federal bands within three years of enactment. The Department asserted “there has been no analysis of the feasibility of reallocations” of these bands – even though in November 2010, NTIA released a “fast track” report announcing that 3550-3650 MHz would be made available in the next five years (i.e., about three years from now), and the agency announced over a year ago that the federal government had identified the 1755-1850 MHz band as the priority band to study for additional repurposing to wireless broadband.
Back in November, I blogged that I’d met with NTIA staff on many occasions about the study, including industry’s long standing interest in the 1755-1780 MHz portion of the band, and there was no doubt that the NTIA team had been working tirelessly. It’s thus perplexing at this point for the Department of Defense to assert that no analysis has been conducted. We continue to await release of the NTIA report on the 1755-1850 MHz band. We remain hopeful that the Administration will deliver a much-needed shot in the arm for achieving the President’s call for 500 MHz of broadband spectrum. Legislation from Congress will help.
CTIA has continued do its part to move the ball forward. Yesterday, Steve Largent sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid that attempted to bridge the gap on some of the outstanding spectrum issues on Capitol Hill.
- On FCC authority: Steve wrote that the Commission “should retain discretion to establish the geographic size of license areas, the number of licenses to be awarded, and the amount of spectrum to be made available within license areas, and that such ability will promote an efficient deployment of spectrum in a manner beneficial to small, medium and large licensees and their customers.” He also argued that “Congress should, however, instruct the Commission not to encumber licenses with unnecessary obligations.”
- On the unlicensed front: Steve wrote that the “focus on maximizing the opportunity for licensed services does not mean, however, that unlicensed opportunities should not also be expanded. They should, and CTIA believes that can be accomplished by permitting usage of the remaining 'white spaces' in the repacked television band, in the 5 GHz band, and, because there will need to be a gap between the uplink and downlink bands used for licensed services, there may be a possibility to permit secondary unlicensed usage in that gap as well as at the bottom of the allocation so as to prevent interference from adjacent broadcast operations.”
- On the reallocation of government spectrum: Steve wrote that “another crucial source of spectrum for wireless broadband services is the 1755-1850 MHz band. Updates to the Commercial Spectrum Enhancement Act would enable agencies currently operating in that band to relocate and modernize their inefficient systems with state-of-the-art equipment and free-up this valuable spectrum for commercial use.”
The goal of the letter was to bridge the gap on some of the open spectrum policy issues to ensure that spectrum legislation is included as part of the payroll effort.
While there is still more to do on spectrum issues and CTIA will be at the forefront of that effort, like I said earlier, today is a good day. Let’s help Congress get over the finish line!