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New Cellular Advocacy Group Trivializes Spectrum Policy Issues

A new group, Mobile Future,

is dedicated to educating the public and key decision makers on innovations in the wireless industry that have transformed the way Americans work and play and to advocate continued investment in wireless technologies. We look forward to keeping you in the loop about our news and events.

It apparently is trying to do this by producing PR that trivializes key spectrum issues, rather than encouraging productive dialogue on the issue or even improving the governmental decisionmaking process.

Mobile Future is a mixture of cellular industry groups that partially overlaps the CTIA membership and some public interest groups. The industry membership includes AT&T, T-Mobile, Alcatel-Lucent, Qualcomm, Cisco, and Ericsson but does not include Sprint, Verizon, Nokia, or Motorola. Other members include Black College Communication Association, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Neighborhoods. You can be pretty sure that the first group of members named above are paying the bills and the second groups is there for “window dressing”.

The video uses the classic “pie” metaphor for spectrum, “the invisible magic that makes our mobile technology work”. “Image spectrum as a freshly baked pie” it goes on. “Spectrum is not an unlimited resource..we’re running low fast...If we don’t allocate more spectrum for mobile, our nation’s appetite for mobile will outstrip capacity in as little as 4 years”. “Too little spectrum means unreliable service and performance..even rationing of wireless services.”

Note that the “pie” shown here, only includes spectrum used by the sponsors with the except of “radio and TV” - would that spectrum management be so simple. In reality there is military use, there is FAA use, there is local, state, and federal public safety use. There is even amateur radio use, not to forget radio astronomy.

But is mobile capacity really proportional to available spectrum? We will not here get into the previously reported NAB and CTIA battling reports. Your blogger is closer to CTIA on that issue than NAB. But the Mobile Future viewpoint is just too much to swallow.

Ofcom, FCC’s well respected UK counterpart, released in January a report entitled 4G Capacity Gains. The study starts with a bold and simple statement that is usually fuzzified in the US cellular industry’s presentations:

Network capacity depends on three key factors as illustrated in Figure 1-2 (shown at left):
  • Technology – the cell spectrum efficiency that can be realised by a given feature set

  • Spectrum – the bandwidth allocated to a network

  • Topology – the mixture of cell sizes and local environments in the network

The report concludes,

“ technology improvements alone will not meet forecast demand increases and that a mixture of changes in topology and spectrum will be required to meet this increase in demand. It is recommended that previous studies into the dimensioning of future spectrum requirements for 4G networks are revisited with the revised cell spectrum efficiency results recommended by this study in mind.”

Thus spectrum alone is not enough to solve the problem, changes in “topology” or number of cells is critical to meet capacity goals.

How is the US doing in this area? A topic the mainstream cellular industry doesn’t like to talk about. Here is one observer’s viewpoint.
FastNetNews reports

Robin Bienenstock of Bernstein makes clear why the U.S. has wireless issues: less investment. “Let's take California and Spain as an example. Telefonica has some 33,000 base stations in Spain (yes, miserable, economically imploding Spain). Conveniently, California is a similar size, has a similar topography, and has very similar population density.”

Yes, the cellular industry need more spectrum. But a singular focus on spectrum ignores the need for more infrastructure and improved technology. Indeed, the Commission’s sometimes indifferent view towards new technology and the capital investment needed to develop it is also a detriment to more wireless services to serve society and help the economy. Finally, the singular focus on spectrum is leading to more and more “food fights” over spectrum that FCC (and NTIA) is/are unable to resolve in a timely way.


Apparently, the real CTIA is perfectly capable of trivializing spectrum policy also. here is a tweet that CTIA sent out several times on July 22:
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