Spectrum, Data, Capacity, and PR

A couple of days ago the Mobile Future coalition posted a short video on YouTube advocating the allocation of more spectrum for mobile broadband.  As evidence of the need, it says that, compared to feature phones, smartphones use 24 times the spectrum and tablets 120 times the spectrum.

A 3G feature phone on Verizon’s network uses about 1.25 MHz of spectrum. Using the above multipliers, a smartphone would need 30 MHz and a tablet 150 MHz, more than the total spectrum inventory of some carriers. In reality, smartphones and tablets use the same 1.25 MHz. What’s going on?

I assume the numbers Mobile Future cites come from the latest Cisco forecast (p7), but those are for increases in data traffic, not spectrum. Mobile Future seemingly equates the two, but they’re different. Data traffic increases with smartphones and tablets, but that data takes up capacity in existing spectrum. At some point, that spectrum runs out of capacity. More spectrum, along with other techniques, can be used to add capacity.

I sense the hand of a PR firm in this, which means it wasn’t cheap. Fortunately, the error seems confined to the voiceover, which can be redone relatively easily. To be breezy about it, for the sake of a two-minute video, the revised message might be that spectrum capacity is limited, smartphones and tablets use much more, when we run low performance suffers, more spectrum adds capacity improving performance.

Wireless service rationing? Millions of new jobs? Hey, it’s an advocacy video. I’d be very pleased if this video drew more attention to spectrum issues, and did not contribute to the myths.

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