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January 14, 2011 • Vol.33 Issue 1
Page(s) 23 in print issue

A Look At Wireless Spectrum
How Can The Available Spectrum Adjust As Demand Continues To Increase?
 With the increasing popularity of smartphones and mobile applications, the wireless spectrum is becoming an integral part of people’s personal and professional lives.

Wireless technologies make use of the electromagnetic spectrum ranging from 9kHz to 300GHz. The FCC, which regulates the spectrum in the United States, authorizes spectrum use for companies providing wireless services, such as major phone carriers. The more data-intensive the application, the larger bandwidth that it needs, which is why much of the current discussion about wireless communications centers around the “spectrum crunch.” Wireless communications are slow, or transmissions fail at certain times because there isn’t enough spectrum to meet the demand.

Key Points

• The number of devices and applications using the wireless spectrum is growing quickly.

• The FCC has taken steps to provide more wireless spectrum to meet the demand.

• Licensed and unlicensed spectrums have different uses, both of which are useful in enterprise applications.


Available spectrum has become even more of an issue lately. “Over the last couple of years, wireless carriers have been rolling out new networks and better quality of service. The upcoming 4G networks will provide even greater services over wireless devices,” says Scott Bergmann, assistant vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA ( “There is a spike in wireless data, meaning more spectrum is needed to meet the demand.”

“The biggest trend in the [IT] world is mobility,” adds Neeraj Srivastava, vice president of marketing and business development at Spectrum Bridge ( “The number of desktops is falling, but the number of computers (which includes laptops and smartphones) is rising. At the same time, so are the number of bits required to run the advanced wire-less applications.”

While that includes countless consumer applications, it also increasingly includes enterprise applications as workers turn to wireless devices to access desktop, server, and even mainframe applications, according to Srivastava.


In its recently released national broadband plan, the FCC set forth its five-year plan to add another 300MHz of spectrum to the 500MHz used for licensed wireless use, including phone calls, text messages, and data applications offered by wireless providers that own certain parts of the wireless spectrum in specific geographic areas.

Unlicensed wireless use includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and ultra-wideband applications. In September, the FCC approved the use of TV white space, the spectrum that sits between TV channels in the 300 to 400MHz range, for wireless use. In urban areas with several broadcast channels, there is little or no white space available; however, there is plenty of it in rural areas. Signals in the white space spectrum can travel several miles and through walls--capabilities that can’t be matched with typical Wi-Fi.

Rick Rotondo, vice president of marketing for xG Technology (, says more companies are turning to unlicensed wireless spectrum as a cheaper alternative to licensed bands; however, because this spectrum can be shared by anyone with a wireless router, the unlicensed spectrum is fast becoming crowded. New antenna technologies are alleviating some of the problem, but admins need to ensure that they provide remote workers with mobile devices that can work across licensed and unlicensed spectrum in order to take advantage of the different capabilities of each.

By Phil Britt

View the chart that accompanies this article.
(NOTE: These pages are PDF (Portable Document Format) files. You will need Adobe Acrobat to view these pages. Download Adobe Acrobat Reader)

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