General Question

XYZZYtja's avatar

What about the spectrum crunch?

Asked by XYZZYtja (228points) November 1st, 2012

What exactly does this mean?

That if we don’t find a solution for this, the bandwidth space in the air will run out, can someone technical, and familar with this subject explain?

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4 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

It’s pretty much how you describe it. The radio spectrum is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum corresponding to radio frequencies (electromagnetic spectrum covers all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation the bottom end is radio, then there’s microwaves, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet light, x-rays and gamma rays). Therefore there is only a limited amount of frequencies radio transmissions can use there is a limit to the amount of data that can be transmitted via radiowaves at single time. This is reduced further because parts of the spectrum are reserved for specific uses for example radar, aircraft communications, marine communications, CB radios. Therefore there is only a limited amount of space for mobile phones to use. Because there has been an increase both in the number of people using mobile data because of the increase in smartphones and mobile hotspots etc and the type of data such as streaming movies and TV it is getting close to the point where there will be too much traffic for mobile phone networks to function. Think of midnight on new years eve when you try to call people and wish them a happy new year but cant get through because everyone else is calling at the same time – it’ll be like that all the time.

One solution is to increase the amount of spectrum available for mobile phones by reducing spectrum available to other things. Another method is to limit the amount of data each individual uses by charging per 1Gb of data used. A more long term solution would be improve the efficiency of the way data is transmitted so more data can be sent at the same time.

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zenvelo's avatar

Yesterday in San Francisco, with a million people on Market Street for the Giants parade, it was hard to get a cell signal or even connect to WiFi because of the demand. At the parade end rally, ATT brought in auxilliary cell receptors, but Verizon customers were out of bandwidth.

It’s one of the reasons that broadcast (over the air) TV signals all went digital a couple of years ago. The analog spectrum spread in the old Channel 2 to 13 was huge; by going digital they were able to reduce all the TV signals down to about the same as one or two old channels.

marinelife's avatar

There are a number of good white papers on this issue. Here is a quote from one by Rysavy Research:

“To satisfy this quickly growing demand, especially since it will take five years or more to bring any new spectrum online, operators are using multiple strategies. One is building new cell sites. Spectrum reuse, which cellular technologies accomplish through the use of the same frequencies over and over in different cells is, in fact, the greatest determinant of overall network capacity. But building new sites is an expensive and time-consuming process. Offloading data onto other networks, such as Wi-Fi, is another option, and one that operators are pursuing aggressively. Femto cells could also eventually offload data in buildings, but the femto market has been slow to develop. New technologies, such as WiMAX and LTE, are spectrally more efficient than previous technologies, but not that much more, and wireless technology is approaching theoretical limits of spectral efficiency. Wireless network deployment in the 700 MHz band will provide a boost in network capacity, but it will be 2014 before these networks will be broadly deployed, and, even then, their capacity is quite finite.
All of these approaches, plus eventual new spectrum, will help address the demand. But even then, wireless capacity will remain constrained relative to demand.”

Mobile Broadband Capacity Constraints And the Need for Optimization

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