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Are we really “running out of spectrum” for communications? You can always get a huge and immediate debate about that.

Mobile service providers tend to argue that of course we are running out of physical spectrum, as people consume video content that represents two to three orders of magnitude more bandwidth than voice or text messaging.

Others argue mobile service providers could do more with their current spectrum, or charge carriers with warehousing spectrum just so competitors cannot use it.

“We are not really running out of spectrum,” says Jeff Yan, Microsoft director of technology policy. “We are inefficient.”

That’s why some argue the mobile industry has yet to prove it needs more spectrum. or as much as mobile industry proponents insist is required. “The mobile projections are wrong,” says Bob Horton, Horton Consulting owner.

In some cases, spectrum that already is designated for communications use has not been released for use by service providers, notes Bob Pepper, Cisco VP.

“In one sense, we might need 1,000 times more capacity, in one sense,” notes Nigel Cassmire, Caribbean Telecommunications Union specialist. “But we can be more efficient.”

“When you are and where you are matters,” he says, pointing out that peak load can be quite spikey, as when a big cruise ship pulls into port.

Most will agree a range of tactics are likely, where it comes to addressing capacity growth. Small cells, spectrum sharing, new spectrum allocation, better air interfaces, better backhaul and traffic offload all will play a part.

But huge fights over raw spectrum are coming, as some amount of additional spectrum is required, even if all the other techniques are used as well.

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