Light Reading

Is There Really a Spectrum Shortage?

Dan Jones
12/14/2012
50%
50%

11:20 AM -- It's been a busy week in the continuing race to grab precious wireless spectrum in the U.S.

Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) revealed a $2 billion bid for control of Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR)'s nationwide 2.6GHz spectrum. Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) got clearance to use AWS-4 spectrum for an LTE network. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , meanwhile, says it will open up 100MHz of 3.5GHz radar spectrum for small cells and sharing.

The Clearwire deal in particular, which has CNN Money declaring Sprint a would-be spectrum king, gets me wondering if it's really necessary to talk about a spectrum crunch for the big three carriers in the U.S. at the moment.

Consider these points:

If Sprint wins Clearwire it will get access to average holdings of 160MHz in the 2.5GHz-2.6GHz band in the top 100 U.S. markets. (See Clearwire: What 4G Spectrum Shortage? and Sprint Wants to Buy Clearwire Outright for $2.1B.)

As Karl Bode over at DSL Reports pointed out in November, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) didn't really need to acquire T-Mobile US Inc. , which it said it did to complete its Long Term Evolution (LTE) rollout to 300 million people, after all. (See AT&T Puts Up $14B to Boost Broadband and Big AT&T & T-Mobile 4G Buildout Ahead?)

In fact, AT&T has been busy buying up spectrum and getting the FCC to agree to open up the WCS band for its use later this decade. (See Sprint Could Make Millions Selling WCS to AT&T.)

Verizon Wireless , meanwhile, said in March that without its AWS spectrum swap with cable companies this year, it feared a spectrum shortfall on its 700MHz C-Block network in some markets by 2013. In order to get the AWS spectrum, though, it has agreed to sell off some 700MHz spectrum in the A- and B-Block. (See Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall and Verizon CFO: Spectrum Sale to 'Play Out' in Q1.)

So it seems to me what we're really seeing is jockeying by AT&T, Verizon and Sprint to get good amounts of spectrum that best suit their commercial and strategic interests.

Now, I know that access to spectrum is a very real concern for smaller players in the market. In fact, I think we could see even more smaller carriers rolled up by the big guys to add subscribers and spectrum in 2013 and beyond.

Of course, as with oil and any other finite resource, a spectrum crunch is inevitable eventually, particularly as tablets and other data-hungry devices eat up more of the shared bandwidth on a network.

Small cells, spectrum sharing, smart antennas and software-defined radio (SDR) should all -- hopefully -- help us manage and stretch out wireless capacity in the future.

For now, however, it doesn't seem to me that the big three carriers in the U.S. are in danger of falling off a bandwidth cliff just yet.

What do you think?

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Light Reading Mobile

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Jeff Baumgartner
50%
50%
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/10/2013 | 4:00:09 AM
re: Is There Really a Spectrum Shortage?


That cost of entrance barrier is the sort of thing Dish faces, whether it will admit to it or not.  Wonder how long before this spectrum king in the making tries to annex Dish's holdings. JB

More Blogs from Jonestown
Consumers have no way of knowing if the aftermarket Sprint phone they're buying will work on the operator's network -- and that's burning Sprint's MVNOs.
Verizon's AOL buy is its latest push in an ongoing strategy to deliver more mobile video to its customers.
Cisco CEO predicts the digitization of everything will change, like, everything!
The connected car is driving the IoT market now, but that's just the start of it.
It's the Claure and Legere show! Sprint and T-Mobile CEOs trade barbs -- or at least retweets -- over rival Super Bowl ads.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Network architects aiming to upgrade their networks to support agile, open, virtualized services in the 21st century need to consider new criteria when choosing between technology suppliers.
Live Streaming Video
BTE 2015 Sponsor Keynote: HP
Dr. Prodip Sen, CTO, Network Functions Virtualization, HP
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat Demo

7|2|15   |   10:53   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Nicolas Lemieux demonstrates how Red Hat is driving innovation through open source communities.
LRTV Custom TV
Red Hat's Approach to OpenStack Adoption

7|2|15   |   5:17   |   (0) comments


Red Hat's Radhesh Balakrishnan outlines his company's open source strategy for both enterprises and telcos.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Goes Mobile With vEPC

7|2|15   |   1:12   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Gabriel Brown discusses results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade that shows a clear commitment by mobile operators to move quickly to virtual EPC deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Making Business Sense of SDN

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Results of a Brocade-sponsored survey show that CSPs have a clear sense of SDN use cases but are wrestling with the business case. Sterling Perrin of Heavy Reading looks behind the numbers.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Will Be Here Sooner Than You Think

7|2|15   |   2:22   |   (0) comments


Forget the usual ten-year cycle for new technologies – NFV will be a core part of CSP networks in five years, based on results of a Brocade-sponsored survey, says Heavy Reading's Caroline Chappell.
LRTV Custom TV
The New IP Gains Traction With CSPs

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Roz Roseboro of Heavy Reading analyzes results of a Light Reading survey sponsored by Brocade showing that CSPs are getting serious about making the transition to the New IP era.
LRTV Custom TV
It's (Real) Time for Analytics

7|2|15   |   1:42   |   (0) comments


Heavy Reading's Jim Hodges looks at how CSPs say they plan to use analytics to deploy new services in real time as part of The New IP, based on results of a survey sponsored by Brocade.
LRTV Documentaries
IoT in Action

6|30|15   |   1:39   |   (8) comments


Two co-workers discuss the benefits of IoT technology.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson Opens Up on OPNFV

6|30|15   |   14:16   |   (2) comments


Martin Bäckström, VP and head of industry area Datacom at Ericsson, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the emergence of OPNFV, the importance of standards and Ericsson's OPNFV plans.
LRTV Custom TV
NetNumber Founder Discusses NFV/SDN Impact on SP Networks

6|26|15   |   4:15   |   (0) comments


NetNumber Founder Doug Ranalli examines why SPs need a new network infrastructure for service agility. While NFV and SDN are the tools, the old ways of thinking about signaling control are inhibitors. Doug provides his recommendations.
LRTV Custom TV
Orchestrating NFV vCPE Services Across Multivendor Networks

6|26|15   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Nirav Modi provides an overview of vCPE, the fastest-growing NFV use case, showing how Cyan's Blue Planet orchestrates vCPE services across a multivendor infrastructure to rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at LTE Summit Amsterdam 2015

6|26|15   |     |   (0) comments


As one of the leading global telecommunications providers, ZTE presented its cutting-edge technology at LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam. On display at ZTE's booth were the latest R&D achievements in wireless, 5G development, HetNet, deep convergence of FDD and TDD, and RCS/IMD/iSDN/vCN.
Upcoming Live Events
September 16-17, 2015, The Westin Galleria Dallas, Dallas, TX
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 14-15, 2015, New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA
November 5, 2015, Hilton Santa Clara, Santa Clara, CA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Who's Feeding Fiber to LinkNYC Hotspots?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 6/29/2015
What's a Gigabit Good For?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 7/1/2015
Colt to Jettison Ailing IT Business
Iain Morris, News Editor, 6/30/2015
Eurobites: Activist Investor Takes Stake in AlcaLu
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 6/30/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Casa Systems has been going from strength to strength over the last couple of years. In 2013, it became the first vendor to ship an integrated CCAP device -- the ...
Cedrik Neike, SVP of Global Service Provider, Service Delivery, at Cisco, talks to Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders about solving service provider customer problems in a virtualized, DevOps world, including multivendor support and the future of network procurement.
Cats with Phones