… it is worth continuing to ask whether the problem is solely, or even mostly, spectrum. The large wireless carriers could also increase the information-carrying capacity of their networks by building more towers and connecting them to fiber rather than copper wires. Today, even though 97.8 percent of the U.S. population has 3G coverage, more than 80 percent of cell sites are still connected to copper wires. But since the goal of any private company seeking Wall Street investment is to achieve the same levels of revenue (or more) while laying out less money, spending on “backhaul” (connections between towers and Internet access points) has not been a high priority. The problem in wireless transmission, therefore, is probably the wires and the towers, not spectrum. Executive compensation and quarterly results trump higher-quality service every time.

Susan Crawford, Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age

It’s Time to Stop Buying the Capacity Crisis Myth

From DSL Reports,

As usual though, actually bothering to listen to and look at the data tells a different story. Nobody argues that spectrum is infinite, but buried below industry histrionics is data noting that there really isn’t a spectrum crisis as much as a bunch of lazy and gigantic spectrum squatters, hoarding public-owned assets to limit competition, while skimping on network investment to appease short-sighted investors. Insiders at the FCC quietly lamented that the very idea of a spectrum crisis was manufactured for the convenience of government and industry.

Burstein correctly reminds us that there’s nothing to fear, and with modern technology like LTE Advanced and more-than adequate resources, any wireless company struggling to keep pace with demand is either incompetent or cutting corners (or both). The idea that our modern networks face rotating oblivion scenarios lest we not rush to do “X” is the fear mongering of lobbyists, politicians, and salesmen. All of them use fear by trade, but the key failure point when it comes to capacity hysteria seems to continually be the press, which likes to unskeptically repeatwhatever hysterical scenario gets shoveled their direction each month.

I think that this really strikes to the heart of things: while all parties recognize the (literally) physical differences between different physical layers that are used to deliver broadband services, hysterics (on both sides) have stifled rational discussion. We really need to have the engineers come forward to talk about things in a manner that lets them evade corporate ‘loyalties’. Moreover, we need to acknowledge that spectral bandwidth is one component of data transmission, not the entirety of it. New codecs, new compression algorithms, and new efficiency protocols can all enable much higher bandwidth volumes and throughput while using identical amounts of spectrum as older, less effective, means of using spectral resources. We need to holistically look at these resources, and get away from as much FUD as we can.