The FCC’s 2011 Broadband Competition Report finds that wireline broadband deployment to rural America has stalled, while mobile broadband deployment is accelerating across the entire country. The conclusion that leaps from the report is that we’ve reached a saturation point for wireline broadband deployment, but that continued investment in mobile broadband makes this relatively unimportant. It appears that all of the markets that can sustain wireline broadband without subsidies have been served, and it will be up to other technologies – such as 4G mobile broadband and satellite – to provide broadband service to the rest of rural America. Mobile broadband is advancing at a rapid rate in terms of both performance and penetration.
The Growing Demand for Spectrum
Improvements in spectrum efficiency do not take place at a fast-enough rate to eliminate the need for the reallocation of spectrum from legacy uses to general-purpose use by mobile broadband networks. Auctions in particular and a broad liberalization of spectrum use in general are essential to meeting consumer needs for mobile broadband services.
Spectrum: The Capital that Drives Wireless Competition
A year ago, the National Broadband Plan called for the release of 500 MHz of new spectrum to mobile network operators, and despite a lot of talk, nothing has been done to implement this recommendation in the interim. The proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile, motivated by the spectrum crunch, should serve as a reminder that mobile competition depends on the resolution of the spectrum issue. Not only are spectrum squatters hindering next-generation handsets and applications, they’re impairing market competition for mobile broadband.