Sorry, America: Your Wireless Airwaves Are Full - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Sorry, America: Your Wireless Airwaves Are Full

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- The U.S. mobile phone industry is running out of the airwaves necessary to provide voice, text and Internet services to its customers.

The problem, known as the "spectrum crunch," threatens to increase the number of dropped calls, slow down data speeds and raise customers' prices for cell phone service. It will also whittle down the nation's number of wireless carriers and create a deeper financial schism between those companies that have capacity and those that don't.

There are potential solutions, but none are inexpensive, easy to implement, or catch-all. And no major fixes are on the horizon.

The U.S. still has a slight spectrum surplus at the moment. But at our current growth rate, that surplus turns into a deficit as early as next year, according to the Federal Communications Commission's estimates.

"Network traffic is increasing, driving up demand for mobile broadband," says an official at the FCC's wireless bureau. "Carriers are doing things to offset the increase in demand. They can manage it for the next couple years, but demand is inevitably going to exceed the available spectrum."

As smartphone and tablet sales soar, customers' consumption of wireless Internet services is skyrocketing. The issue is that wireless spectrum -- the invisible infrastructure over which all wireless transmissions travel -- is a finite resource. When, exactly, we'll hit the wall is the subject of intense debate, but almost everyone in the industry agrees that a crunch is coming. click here to read more from CNN

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