CTIA Study Shows Spectrum Efficiency Increased 42 Times Since 2010

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U.S. wireless providers increased their spectrum efficiency 42 times since 2010, according to a new white paper released by CTIA, the wireless industry association. U.S. wireless networks handled 948 million megabytes for every one megahertz of spectrum in 2010. They now handle 39.9 billion MBs/MHz due to significant industry investment in networks and technology.

Facing a growth curve in mobile data use—which nearly doubled last year alone—and as 5G places more demand on wireless networks, wireless providers are investing billions to increase their spectrum efficiency. 

“This paper conclusively demonstrates that America’s wireless providers are excellent stewards of their spectrum assets, a limited natural resource,” said CTIA SVP/CTO Tom Sawanobori.

The wireless industry increased their network spectral efficiency by refarming existing spectrum, quickly deploying new spectrum assets and deploying denser wireless infrastructure. These efforts helped U.S. providers serve over 589,000 subscribers for each megahertz of spectrum. That’s more than twice that of Japan, three and a half times that of Germany, and four times that of the U.K., according to CTIA.

As the price for acquiring new spectrum can range from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, economic sense dictates providers promptly put new spectrum to use, concludes CTIA in its paper. “This process can often take years — wireless providers first must install new radios and antennas on their wireless towers and infrastructure that use the new spectrum,” states the association. In addition, wireless providers must work with handset manufacturers to ensure that new devices can support the new spectrum.

Wireless providers’ spectrum efficiency efforts are key, but carriers also need more licensed spectrum. As the Administration prepares its National Spectrum Strategy, CTIA recommends including a clear directive to lead the world in 5G spectrum and make available more low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum to deliver on the industry’s 5G ambitions.

July 10, 2019

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