THE SPECTRUM CRISIS: If Nothing Is Done To Fix Our Wireless Infrastructure, Your iPhone Will Be Useless By 2013

According to the FCC, the United States is facing an imminent spectrum crisis, in which exploding demand from smartphones will soon overwhelm the nation’s wireless capacity.

The problem, the FCC says, is the lack of new spectrum being made available to wireless data carriers. Smartphone data traffic is growing so fast, the FCC says, that–if nothing is done–we will use up our available spectrum by 2013.

(Fortunately, the FCC has a plan–see below).

Here are the charts:

Demand For Wireless Spectrum Is Exploding

[credit provider=”Federal Communications Commission”]


Less And Less Spectrum Is Being Auctioned Off

[credit provider=”Federal Communications Commission”]

Spectrum Deficit By 2013

[credit provider=”Federal Communications Commission”]


See? By 2013, we’re screwed. By 2014, we’re really screwed.  And, of course, the problem won’t just affect iPhones. It will hobble Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7, Palm, and any other remaining smartphones, too.

So, what’s the FCC’s plan to fix this?

Something called “Incentive Auctions,” in which the owners of old, under-used spectrum–TV and radio broadcast spectrum, for example–put the spectrum up for auction and get a portion of the proceeds.

This plan, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says, will encourage companies to part with unused spectrum, create more spectrum that can be used by wireless data providers, and narrow our massive budget deficit–because the bulk of the proceeds will go to the Treasury.

What do we think? Just government scaremongering? Good plan? Weigh in below.

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski will present and defend this plan at our Startup 2011 conference on May 10, 2011 in NYC. We’ll let you know how he does!