The Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation today held a hearing to review efforts supporting the flexible and innovative utilization of spectrum, while ensuring the continued growth of the wireless economy.
"Our wireless industry is the most competitive and innovative in the world, in part because it has been able to operate under flexible, market-driven policies, unfettered from excessive government intervention," said Subcommittee Chairman Ben Quayle (R-AZ). "As spectrum has become more crowded, it is necessary to ensure that it is being used as efficiently as possible, and that we have the policies in place to encourage industry's continued investment and growth. Maximizing the yield and availability from this essential resource will continue to help create jobs and encourage innovation."
The U.S. wireless economy has experienced tremendous growth, with subscriber connections growing from 38.2 million in 2006 to 322.9 million in 2011. This massive growth is compounded as modern devices, such as smart phones and tablets, significantly multiply data use. In fact, growth in mobile data traffic has more than doubled for the fourth year in a row in 2011. As spectrum becomes more crowded, efforts to ensure that spectrum is used as efficiently as possible become more urgent. Witnesses today described the need for additional spectrum to be made available to the wireless industry, and for research and development to identify more effective and efficient uses of spectrum.
Several witnesses cited the research and development investments that the wireless industry has undertaken. Ms. Mary Brown, Director of Technology and Spectrum Policy at Cisco Systems, Inc., said that "The technology sector, for its part, is hard at work to try to help our service provider customers meet consumer demand until additional spectrum can be placed in service." Ms. Brown continued, "Across the technology industry, there is a broad range of innovations that are rolling out to help carriers cope with a shortage of spectrum. New chipset designs, new base stations and antenna technology, and new network management tools are a few of the offerings designed to wring more efficiency from available spectrum."
Testifying on behalf of an industry trade group that represents a wide variety of interests for the wireless telecommunications industry, Mr. Christopher Guttman-McCabe, discussed how wireless companies drive innovation. "To stay ahead of demand, CTIA's members invest more than $20 billion annually to extend and upgrade the capabilities of wireless networks," Guttman-McCabe said. "Investment in advanced wireless networks increases employment and has encouraged the creation of entire new sectors of our economy."
Witnesses said that while the federal government should avoid excessive interference, it can play a role in funding basic research. "Government can fund research, and it can make purchasing decisions to support the commercialization of leading-edge technologies," said Mr. Richard Bennett, a Senior Research Fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. However, Mr. Bennet cautioned that "Government does not need to compete with the private sector as a provider of network services generally."
The following witnesses testified today before the Committee:
Dr. James Olthoff, Deputy Director, Physical Measurement Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology
Mr. Richard Bennett, Senior Research Fellow, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation
Mr. Christopher Guttman-McCabe, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, CTIA--The Wireless Association
Ms. Mary Brown, Director, Technology and Spectrum Policy, Cisco Systems, Inc.
Dr. Rangam Subramanian, Chief Wireless and Technology Strategist, Idaho National Laboratory