According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission chairman, the rapid growth in bandwidth usage by mobile devices like the iPhone threatens to overload the available electromagnetic communications frequencies - or "spectrum," as the FCC refers to it - allocated to such devices. As a result, creative new policies will have to be implemented to avoid a "spectrum gap," the chairman said.
In a Q&A with Business Week, FCC chair Julius Genachowski said that if current trends continue, there will not be enough spectrum available for the growth in mobile broadband access. This growth is largely attributed to the iPhone and its much-discussed Hummer-like thirst for bandwidth. Familiar complaints about AT&T's US 3G service - network overloads that result in dropped calls, missed text messages, delayed voicemail, slow downloads, etc. - will become increasingly common, even if Apple allows other service providers to carry the iPhone, because the carriers have nowhere to go to build out their infrastructure. To deal with this, Genachowski said, the FCC will have come up with new ways to allocate the finite amount of spectrum available for wireless services:
"We've been spending time on long-term spectrum policy because the data suggest we face a spectrum gap. The demands that are being created by the iPhone and other mobile broadband technologies threaten to outstrip the amount of spectrum available for commercial mobile, and it's important for the country that we get long-term planning right because it takes time to identify spectrum and put it on the market. We're looking at potential innovations in spectrum policy, such as secondary licensing for spectrum, and other, more creative ideas for unlicensed spectrum."
3G iPhones currently operate in either the 800-MHz (IS-54) or 1900-MHz (IS-136) frequency bands. In many markets, all available channels are either at or near capacity.
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