Advanced telemedicine. Driverless cars. Breakthroughs in environmental management. They are all powered by mobile broadband, which relies on something we can’t even see: spectrum. Spectrum is the range of radio waves that carry massive quantities of information we all generate at lightning-fast speeds. The more data we all use, the more spectrum is necessary to carry it. It’s invisible, it’s scarce, and it’s absolutely vital to our mobile future. In 2016, consumers use as much mobile data in only three days as they used in all of 2007. Consumer demand for data is expected to grow by 42% annually for the next four years and will only continue to explode as the Internet of Things (IoT) ushers in billions of new wirelessly connected devices and applications. Given our voracious appetite for all things mobile, we need a robust supply of spectrum. That’s the only way to ensure we continue to enjoy the type of mobile experience we’ve all come to expect.
Think of spectrum as a complex network of highways for data. Like any road, it can become crowded, causing dropped calls, slower speeds or even gridlock. This congestion – called “spectrum crunch” – is avoidable, but only if we free up spectrum fast enough to feed our massive and growing demand for mobile data at work, at home, and in our communities. Unfortunately, it can take up to 13 years from the time Congress releases new spectrum to the time it’s actually ready for commercial use. Thirteen years is a long time, and with new mobile solutions coming to market every day, there is no time to waste. So what needs to happen? Industry, government agencies, and Congress must work together in a sustained, cooperative effort to identify more new spectrum. Then Congress must pass legislation to make it available for all of us to use as quickly as possible. The clock is ticking. The time for Congress to act is now.