Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Spectrum Crunch

Like most folks, I love having wireless internet everywhere I go.  There's just one problem: as the number of people enjoying it increases, transfer rates go down and everyone's service gets slower.  An industry magazine led me to Mobile Future.  I can't really vouch for them or say anything negative or positive, but they seem to be a trade group trying to influence the FCC to allocate more spectrum to wireless carriers.

They present this amazing fun fact: By 2016, there will be a total of 3 billion networked devices in the US.  That's 9 devices for every man, woman and child.  2016 is close enough that sane businesses are planning for it. Heck; if you ordered a Boeing 787 today, I'm not sure you get it before 2016.
Direct link, because sometimes these info graphics just don't work out very well in my posts.  And be sure to check out this one, too. 

Remember, pretty much every sliver of spectrum - from DC up to where it gets really expensive to use - is already allocated to someone.  Broadcast, police radio, marine radio, utilities, defense, and lots more.  Giving more wireless spectrum to this use will remove it from other uses.  Yes, it's completely renewable resource in the sense that when you stop transmitting it's available to everyone else, but it takes a lot to make incompatible services play nice together, and sometimes you can't (like Lightsquared and GPS). 

Could get interesting.


Anonymous said...

I recall similar sky is falling stories regarding telephone number assignment in the late 90's - we MUST go to 7 digit numbers RIGHT NOW - we're running OUT OF NUMBERS

something happened though - the exponential growth wasn't maintained

disclaimer - i don't have any wireless devices.

none - what do i know?

Anonymous said...

Err, that would be 7 + 1 digits...or about 8


Graybeard said...

7 + 1 digits...or about 8? ;-)

Joke aside, it's a good point. Technology tends to find ways around this and growth never is maintained indefinitely. This topic warrants some additional reading and maybe a longer post.

Anonymous said...

People just need to get over the everything has to be mobile idea. Why does everything have to be a cellphone? And the won't be. At least some of those "devices" are already here and they are WiFi. Smart Blu-ray players. Roku boxes. And even they don't need to be WiFi. (Mine BD player is hardwired to my network. I have the WiFi turned off at home because it isn't secure. Way less secure than the hard line.)

So run a few cables. You will get better service for things at home. And your refrigerator really doesn't need its own cellphone number.

Graybeard said...

Oh, I agree completely about WiFi. Should be a last resort, rarely used. If you're going to use anything full time, or close, run Ethernet. The cellular stuff (3G/4G) is more secure, but for most folks, it's metered like your water or electricity service. That's probably coming to your cable modem or fiber optic, too.

Daniel K Day said...

I beg to differ - we used to punch 7 digits, and now we punch 10. Going back to 8 digits would be an improvement.
I suppose some phone companies have mechanical switches that can't handle 8 digits, but how many of those machines are serving markets that are big enough to require multiple area codes?
I was living in Japan when they made the switch (the following is from memory, so if someone was there and spots a mistake, fire away). It started in Tokyo. Tokyo's area code is 3. They tacked a 3 on to the front of the Tokyo exchanges to create the 4-digit exchanges, and after everyone had several months to get used to it, they started new exchanges 4-digit exchanges with the numeral "5".
Here we're stuck with dialing out complete area-codes. Sigh.
I know, I know -- Speed dial.