updated 03:05 pm EDT, Wed September 2, 2009
FCC Wants More Spectrum
FCC broadband head Blair Levin today pushed for more access to wireless spectrum as part of his organization's plans to expand broadband Internet access in the US. Pointing to complaints that there isn't enough available, the official suggested that the FCC could use the technology not only to grow coverage in rural areas where landlines are impractical or simply to improve the bandwidth available to everyone. He added that the extra spectrum could even be necessary as more wireless devices come online and saturate existing networks.
"The demand curves from uses like smartphones suggest [demand is] going to increase dramatically," Levin said.
While the FCC recently auctioned off the 700MHz spectrum formerly used by analog over-the-air TV, one proposed solution would be to free up airwaves no longer being used by the military or other government bodies. The CTIA, an advocate group for incumbent carriers, has asked the government to take stock of what frequencies are in use and to auction off those that aren't.
Cellular data speeds have been a pressing issue in recent months as the surge in demand for the iPhone has regularly overwhelmed those parts of AT&T's network that only use the 1,900MHz band for 3G. The carrier at least partly mitigated the problem with its recent 850MHz addition, which not only added a second spectrum in at least some of these areas but provided more bandwidth by itself.
The 700MHz auction by itself is considered essential to the expansion of wide-area Internet access in the US as the frequency will be used by most major carriers for their 4G service, starting with Verizon in 2010. It should provide much higher peak speeds than 3G and, because of the lower frequency, should reach further with less interference from buildings.