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The New Spectrum Caucus: Bringing Focus to an Unseen, Indispensable Tool

Most Americans don’t know it, but radio spectrum has become an indispensable tool in our daily lives.  Spectrum is the invisible link between our smart phones, tablets, laptops, fitbits, and other mobile devices to the Internet.  It carries the video, voice, text and rich media that has transformed the world around us.

Recognizing this reality, Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) have formed a new Spectrum Caucus to focus attention in Congress and around the country about the vital need for more spectrum for broadband.  No doubt about it, radio spectrum is a hot topic on Capitol Hill. Here’s why:

  • The recently released Cisco Mobile Visual Networking Index forecasts  that by 2018, consumers will be sending 2.7 exobytes/month over cellular networks, nearly eight times the data sent over US mobile networks in 2013. That type of traffic growth has a serious impact on networks and the potential for network congestion – unless more spectrum can be found.
  • Just as consumers are loading the licensed airwaves with video and other apps, they are also loading up Wi-Fi networks.  Demand for Wi-Fi networks is rising both for use in the home and enterprise, and to offload mobile traffic. By 2018, consumers, using  devices equipped with both Wi-Fi and mobile capability, will offload 64% of their data  to Wi-Fi.  Wi-Fi is  an essential access technology, and also requires radio spectrum.
  • Why is this all important?  A study for GSM by Deloitte and using Cisco demand forecasts  found that a doubling of mobile data traffic leads to an increase in GDP per capita of 0.5%.   Creating wireless connectivity that enables wireless data usage grows economies.  That’s huge.
  • For Wi-Fi, a Cisco-sponsored study by Plum Consulting  showed that just the value of increasing Wi-Fi spectrum for mobile offloading, along the benefit of de-congesting dense Wi-Fi environments, would can be valued in the billions.

By no means does this represent the universe of spectrum issues.  Growth in Machine to Machine uses and the Internet of Everything represent an emerging category of spectrum uses.  The recently released Department of Defense Spectrum Strategy  demonstrates that our Defense spectrum needs are growing and changing also.

Every member of Congress uses radio spectrum every day, whenever they reach for a smartphone or use Wi-Fi.  As do all their constituents.  Everyone needs to think about how we can be better stewards of our radio spectrum.  So let me thank Representatives Matsui and Guthrie for forming this new Caucus and bringing focus to this critical matter.

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