The Federal Communications Commission has helped free up three times more spectrum for wireless in the last few years. but the wireless industry is projected to need 30-times more spectrum to handle all the applications coming down the pipe.
That's the FCC's challenge as outlined by chairman Julius Genachowski during a panel on spectrum availability at Thursday's field hearing on mobile broadband.
One answer could be to require incumbents to share their spectrum.
Panelist after panelist reinforced the need for fatter pipes, as one put it, with different takes on how to free up more spectrum. Ravi Potharlanka, chief operating officer of wireless backhaul and middle mile provider FiberTower, was looking to get more spectrum from broadcasters.
He recommended setting aside up to six TV channels in rural areas for wireless use, with enough separation from broadcasters to eliminate "practically any possibility" of interference.
Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said the FCC should follow through with figuring out whether the unlicensed devices it has already approved in the TV band be allowed to boost power in rural areas, but she was looking elsewhere for more spectrum.
She said that it would be impossible to wrest control over spectrum held by incumbents with "most of the spectrum that would have value to industry." But she wasn't talking about TV broadcasters. In fact, they have already given up a quarter of their spectrum in the DTV switch, and share what they have with unlicensed microphones and, more recently, lower powered wireless devices.
Sohn said the folks not willing to share are the Defense Department and Federal Aviation Administration. "We believe that it will be impossible to convince government to abandon the spectrum it controls, and that the better course is for the FCC, working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, to promote shared use of federally controlled spectrum."