There are more wireless devices in the U.S. than Americans today, but several independent analysts and researchers predict that this number of mobile technology will grow exponentially within the next few years thanks to the “Internet of Things.”
Even though U.S. wireless companies are the world's most efficient commercial spectrum users, more licensed spectrum will be needed to meet the current rate of industry growth and consumer and business demand for wireless broadband.
- Mobile data traffic in the U.S. will be 687 times greater in 2017 than it was in 2007.1
- North America will have the fastest growth in mobile devices and connections with 13 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2017.2
- In 2017, a 4G connection will generate eight times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection.3
In order to meet this demand, CTIA and its members are advocating for more licensed spectrum. Since some spectrum band holders have underutilized or unused spectrum, it’s logical to move those users and auction the finite and valuable spectrum.
In the meantime, wireless carriers are investing billions of dollars – and at record amounts – to enhance their networks and make use of the spectrum they previously purchased at auction by adding more towers and antennas to improve coverage and capacity, but these are merely short-term solutions to the anticipated data usage explosion. In addition, the carrier investments are only the beginning of the “virtuous cycle” of significant economic benefit that spectrum auctions would have in the U.S. since device manufacturers and apps and content creators would be driven to develop new offerings to take advantage of the networks increased speeds, capabilities and capacity.
Thanks to the investments by the U.S. wireless companies, Americans enjoy the world’s best wireless industry.
- The U.S. is home to less than five percent of the world’s wireless users, but we have more than 50 percent of the world’s 4G/LTE subscribers.4
- In 2012, wireless carriers invested more than $30 billion in networks, which was a nine percent increase from the previous year. It also represented 25 percent of the global wireless investment in the same time period and more than the entire EU combined.
Yet our leadership in 4G (and 5G, 6G, 7G, etc.) will be challenged unless the wireless industry has access to more licensed spectrum. Considering other countries, including those in the EU such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK, are allocating large bands of licensed spectrum for commercial wireless use because they see the tremendous benefits wireless broadband offers Americans. While they try to catch up, the U.S. wireless companies want to stay ahead.
Previous spectrum auctions (700 MHz and AWS) raised approximately $30 billion for the U.S. Treasury. Historically, data shows that for every 10 MHz of licensed spectrum:
- U.S. GDP increases by $1.739 billion
- U.S. employment increases by at least 7,000
- Government revenues increase by $468 million
- Wireless service provider revenues increase by $1.924 billion
Thankfully, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan, endorsed by President Obama, identified 500 MHz of spectrum to be made commercially available by 2020. The plan, released in March 2010, also stated 300 MHz out of the 500 MHz is to be made available by 2015.
The economic impact of bringing the NBP’s 500 MHz of spectrum to market by 2020 is at least:
- $166 billion increase for the U.S. GDP
- 350,000 new U.S. jobs
- $23.4 billion in government revenues
- $13.1 billion in wireless apps and content sales
That’s why CTIA and its member companies continue to advocate for more licensed spectrum. It’s a win for consumers, businesses and government.
Major actions on this important issue include:
- In June 2010, President Barack Obama issued the Unleashing the Wireless Broadband Revolution memorandum in support of the NBP's spectrum goals.
- The Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (Public Law 112-96), passed by Congress in February 2012, made a substantial down payment toward the NBP targets.
- NTIA spectrum report that concluded it will repurpose the 1755-1850 MHz bands, which has a natural AWS-3 pairing and is internationally harmonized spectrum.
- President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report , released July 2012, which focused on investigating creative approaches for making federal government spectrum commercially available.
- Presidential Memorandum on Expanding America’s Leadership in Wireless Innovation, released June 2013, that stated, “Although existing efforts [via the June 2010 memorandum] will almost double the amount of spectrum available for wireless broadband, we must make available even more spectrum and create new avenues for wireless innovation.”
1. Cisco, Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2012–2017, February 2013, available at http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/collateral/ns341/ns525/ns537/ns705/ns827/white_paper_c11-520862.html
4. Didier Scemama, “Global Wireless CapEx: Increase 2013 Forecast by 7%,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch, January 6, 2013
Last Updated: November 2013