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CTIA touts US carriers’ investment in spectral efficiency

A new report by CTIA delves into the ways in which U.S. carriers have tried to squeeze the most efficiency out of their wireless spectrum, while continuing the industry’s perennial call for the government to make still more available.

U.S. wireless providers increased their spectrum efficiency by 42 times over what it was in 2010, according to the new white paper from CTIA. In 2010, the industry association said, U.S. wireless networks handled 948M megabytes per one megahertz  of spectrum; now they handle 39.9B MBs/MHz, or more than 589,000 subscribers for each megahertz of spectrum.

“Spectral efficiency is not an academic exercise for U.S. wireless providers. It’s essential,” CTIA said in the report. Due to ongoing steep increases in mobile data, wireless network operators have to pull all the levers available to them to meet demand: refarming existing spectrum for use with newer, more efficient generations of network technology, deploying new spectrum (such as 600 MHz and mmWave) quickly, and densifying their networks with infrastructure such as small cells. CTIA noted that in the last five years, the number of wireless subscribers has gone up more than 25%, and those subs are using more mobile data. Average use is at 6.5 GBs per month, compared to 1.1 GBs per month five years ago.

Tom Sawanobori, CTIA SVP and CTO, said that CTIA’s new analysis “conclusively demonstrates” that U.S. MNOs are “excellent stewards of their spectrum assets.”

So, by CTIA’s reckoning, it follows that they should be entrusted with still more. And a specific type: exclusive-use licensed spectrum, which has always been the industry’s preference unlicensed or shared spectrum.

“Wireless providers’ spectrum efficiency efforts are key, but we also need more licensed spectrum,” CTIA said, calling out traditional licensed spectrum as fueling the industry’s migration from 2G to 3G to 4G networks and its early leadership in 5G. 

“As the administration prepares its National Spectrum Strategy, we recommend including a clear directive to lead the world in 5G spectrum and make available more low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum to deliver on our 5G ambitions,” CTIA said.

The full report is available from CTIA’s website.


Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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