How Mobile Data Can Keep Up With Demand

The demand for data on mobile devices is doubling year-on-year. But the availability of radio waves, known as spectrum, which broadcast all that data has remained constant since 2008. Estimates suggest that demand will exceed supply by 2013—so what are we going to do?

In fact it's an issue that's troubling a lot of people: scientists are trying to work out how cram more data into the same spectrum; Congress is auctioning off TV spectrum to use for wireless data instead. But those developments will take years to come to fruition.

In the New York Times, however, Randall Stephenson points out that three things need to happen if we're to satisfy our continued thirst for mobile data:

Require spectrum holders to put the airwaves to work. Many spectrum holders are speculators seeking an investment gain, with no intent to build a mobile network. We should discourage speculation and do more to ensure that spectrum goes to companies with the experience and means to put it to work...

Quickly get spectrum where consumers need it most. Large amounts of spectrum actually sit unused in the marketplace today. It's held by companies that are not using it but would be willing to sell their stakes if they were certain the transaction would be approved in short order...

Establish a national model for the local approval process that's required when wireless carriers need to build new mobile infrastructure. The process needs to balance community concerns with the significant public benefit of adding new antennas and improving wireless coverage in local markets...

In the article, he goes into more detail about how each of those goals can be achieved, and his thoughts are well worth reading. What's certain, though, is that investment in mobile data services will stimulate the economy—and keep us connected, wherever we are. [New York Times]