Can Spectrum Keep up with Newest Product Advances?

by David Honig on March 8, 2012

The world is going mobile, and if we as a nation are to keep up, we need to ensure that ample spectrum is available to meet our growing needs. Apple’s new iPad is just the latest in a line of product advancements that is driving mobile broadband demand. Analysts predict that by the end of this year Apple will have sold 100 million iPads , and that’s just one product in an exploding mobile marketplace.

Ever since the first smartphones were sold in 2007, Americans have discovered the joys and even necessity of being connected to the Internet from anywhere and all the time. The newest products are bringing new, spectrum-intensive features that will add to consumer demand for fast mobile networks.

Movies and other video will look better than ever with new displays. As processing speed increases and mobile products utilize new 4G LTE networks, streaming video will become just as popular as watching TV on a home flat screen. Smartphone and tablet cameras are growing in capability.  Sending a high resolution photograph or an HD video a user has just shot to a social network or a group of friends will demand more mobile bandwidth.

The bottom line is that demand for mobile access will continue to explode. Global mobile data traffic grew 230 percent in 2011 over 2010. It took Americans 37 years to grow total traffic mileage that much.

African Americans and Latinos are at the leading edge of this demand. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, African Americans and Latinos use these mobile applications and functions more than white device owners use them. Pew’s latest survey shows that 56 percent of African American cell phone owners access the Internet, compared to 51 percent of Hispanics and 39 percent of whites. African Americans and Hispanics are also are more likely to post a photo or video online or do online banking from their mobile phones or smart phones.

As handheld devices become more sophisticated, they may replace laptop and desktop computers for many people. That, too, is more likely to drive growth in demand for wireless connections at speeds sufficient for a wide range of computer activities.

This month’s new iPad announcement will be followed by something else in April, and May, and so on.  To meet this growing demand for mobile services, wireless companies will need more spectrum to build the networks of the future. Congress just directed the FCC to hold fair and open auctions for new wireless spectrum. The FCC should move quickly to put more spectrum to work so we won’t be sitting on hold as we use new mobile devices.

  • David Honig is MMTC’s President and Executive Director. He co-founded the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) in 1986. MMTC has represented over 70 minority, civil rights and religious national organizations in selected proceedings before the FCC, and it operates the nation’s only full service, minority owned media and telecom brokerage.

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