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Money Minute: Not enough wireless spectrum to go around? [Video]

April 18, 2012|By David Lazarus

The great spectrum shortage is almost upon us.

At least that's what some wireless companies are warning, perhaps in a bid to gain access to more bandwidth at cut-rate prices -- or jack up people's bills.

The explosive growth of data-hungry smartphones and tablets means wireless service will be stretched thin within the next few years, the industry says, creating a potential spectrum crisis unless something is done to remedy things.

Nonsense, counter some scientists and engineers, who argue that any shortage of bandwidth could be solved by wireless companies devoting more resources to development of new technologies, rather than spending billions of dollars buying each other out.

"Somehow in the last 100 years, every time there is a problem of getting more spectrum, there is a technology that comes along that solves that problem," the inventor of the cellphone, Martin Cooper, told the New York Times.

I'm with him. If anything, these threats of a spectrum shortage demonstrate the wireless industry's lack of innovation, which is fostered by what many consumer advocates say is a lack of competition in the market.

If wireless companies had to work harder for our business, something tells me they'd be investing gobs of money into improving their networks to meet the needs of as many iPhones and iPads as Apple could crank out.

As it stands, that money all too frequently goes to mergers instead. Maybe that's the real crisis.

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