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Chairman Genachowski: The Clock is Ticking

Posted March 16th, 2011 by George Krebs

This morning Chairman Genachowski spoke on spectrum, consumers and America’s small businesses, delivering the keynote address as part of the Mobile Future Forum. He called attention to the growth of broadband in America, the looming spectrum crisis and our solution of voluntary, market-based incentive auctions to free up that spectrum. He emphasized that “we must act” to set the pace for 21st century technology and said, “there’s no other choice than for the U.S. to lead.”

Given the theme, the event was held at Voxiva, a mobile based information solutions firm recently named one of the most innovative companies in the world. Peter Rysavy of Rysavy Research released a report prior to the Chairman’s talk entitled The Spectrum Imperative: Mobile Broadband Spectrum and its impacts for U.S. Consumers and the Economy. Here's an excerpt from the Chairman's speech.

To some, it was a surprise that the Broadband Plan included major sections on mobile broadband.  At the time, many assumed that broadband was what you got when you connected your computer to the modem plugged into your wall.

…Mobile broadband is being adopted faster than any computing platform in history.  The number of smartphones and tablets being sold now exceeds the number of PCs.

The Mobile Future report released this morning puts a fine point on this.  According to their report, quote, “The clock is ticking, with rising demand rapidly closing the gap with existing supply.  The consequences of inaction are severe, widespread and wholly negative for consumers and the U.S. economy.”

The point deserves emphasis:  the clock is ticking on our mobile future. Demand for spectrum is rapidly outstripping supply.  The networks we have today won’t be able to handle consumer and business needs. 

Read the rest of the Chairman’s speech The Clock is Ticking.

Posted in Events Wireless Office Of Chairman Mobile Usf

The National Broadband Map

Posted February 17th, 2011 by Anne Neville - Director, State Broadband Initiative – NTIA

Welcome to the first-ever public, searchable nationwide map of broadband access. 

The National Broadband Map is an unprecedented project created by NTIA, in collaboration with the FCC, and in partnership with each state, territory and the District of Columbia. We created the map at the direction of Congress, which recognized that economic opportunities are driven by access to 21st Century infrastructure.

With funding from NTIA’s State Broadband Data & Development Program, our state partners have gathered and worked to validate broadband data from thousands of providers across the country. Together, we developed a dataset and website that includes more than 25 million searchable records displaying where broadband Internet service is available, the technology used to provide the service, the maximum advertised speeds of the service, and the names of the broadband providers. Whether you are a consumer seeking more information on the broadband options available to you, a researcher or policymaker working to spur greater broadband deployment, a local official aiming to attract investment in your community, or an application developer with innovative ideas, the National Broadband Map can help.  And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for on the map itself, you can download the entire dataset.

While the launch of this map is a huge accomplishment, today is just the beginning. Our partners in the states are working to expand and update this important dataset, and we will update the map with new data every six months. In the meantime, you can help. Each time you search the map, you have the opportunity to tell us about the data you’re seeing. This crowdsourced feedback will be an important tool to improve and refine the data.

We invite you to explore the many features and functionalities the National Broadband Map offers. To start, search for broadband by address. Or go straight to our analysis tools and compare one area to others, and make sure you spend some time with our maps.  Want more? Download the dataset, use our APIs and please tell us how you’re using the data.

We expect the map will be a valuable tool as we work to bridge the technological divide, expand economic opportunities, and leverage the power of broadband to address many of the nation’s most pressing challenges.  We hope you will make full use of its capabilities and let us know what you think and how we can improve.

Posted in Wireless Open Government National Broadband Plan Data Developer Api Maps
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Demand for mobile broadband

Posted February 10th, 2011 by John Leibovitz

By John Leibovitz & Robert Alderfer

Cisco recently released an update to its Visual Networking Index: Mobile Data Traffic Forecast report, which contains projections of data usage on mobile wireless networks over the next five years. The report is widely followed because Cisco’s role as a network equipment supplier throughout the network ecosystem –  including wireline networks, cellular networks, and consumer WiFi networks – gives them some unique insights into where network trends are heading. Last year’s VNI report, which projected surging demand on wireless networks, was an input into the spectrum demand analysis we released this past fall. We were therefore interested to see how Cisco’s report changed since the prior edition.

The bottom line is that Cisco continues to foresee an enormous surge in wireless demand.  Let’s take a look at their North American regional breakout. Cisco estimates that in 2010, North Americans transmitted 49 Petabytes (PB) per month over mobile networks. That’s about 4,900 times the amount of information in the printed collection of the Library of Congress. By 2015, Cisco expects this number will grow to 986 Petabytes – nearly one Exabyte, equivalent to almost 100,000 Libraries of Congress.

In relative terms, Cisco’s projects 20X growth in the next five years. This is lower than the 47X growth forecast in the previous Cisco report, but only because this year’s forecast starts from a higher “base” compared to the previous year. Overall, Cisco predicts that data growth begins to slow down in out years, but that the growth still continues at an impressive rate. The forecast consumption is 58X larger in 2015 compared to the 2009 estimate reported in last year’s report. Any way you look at it, that’s enormous growth.

Importantly, the report accounts for some offsetting effects, most notably the use of WiFi and femtocell networks to “offload” capacity from the mobile network to a fixed broadband connection. Cisco estimates that about 21% of traffic from smartphones and tablets was offloaded to WiFi or femtocells in 2010 and that this proportion will increase to 30% by 2015. This finding demonstrates the vital importance of unlicensed spectrum in helping address our nation’s wireless capacity needs. Still, overall traffic growth is likely to outpace offloading, according to Cisco’s forecast.

Consider what this astounding growth means to American families, to our economy, and to our future. All of those bits and bytes represent new ways of communicating, informing, and transacting with one another. They are video messages sent to grandparents, invoices sent to customers, and research findings sent to universities. And countless other uses, as diverse as the Internet itself. Our obligation at the FCC is to ensure that our wireless rules are flexible enough so that the supply of spectrum will meet this inexorable demand. That’s what keeps us busy every day.

Posted in Wireless National Broadband Plan Mobile
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New Tools Allow Developers to Leverage Spectrum Data

Posted January 14th, 2011 by James Brown - Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

James BrownToday the Federal Communications Commission released two new Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) on our developer page at fcc.gov/developer.  The new APIs leverage data from the Spectrum Dashboard and provide the developer community with direct access to these assets.

Managing spectrum is one of the FCC's primary responsibilities. These APIs are tools that unlock our substantial databases related to spectrum ownership, spectrum use, and spectrum capabilities at different locations.

Below is snapshot of the two APIs.

  • Spectrum Bands: This API returns a description of how spectrum bands are allocated and for what uses within the 225 MHz to 3700 MHz frequency range.  This information includes the lower and upper frequencies of each band, the radio services operating within the band, whether the band is allocated for federal or non-federal use, and whether the band permits unlicensed operation.  The API returns data falling within the frequency range specified as the search criteria.
  • Spectrum Dashboard Licenses: This API returns an overview of who owns spectrum across the country within the 225 MHz to 3700 MHz frequency range in radio services deemed appropriate for mobile broadband use.  The API returns the call sign, licensee name, common name, radio service code, radio service description, channel block, channel block frequency, market code and market description.

When we released the first set of APIs back in September, we did so as part of our Data Innovation Initiative efforts towards better data transparency and open government.  We continue with those efforts by releasing the second set of APIs today.

Your feedback has been essential to improving these API releases and making them more valuable to developers in the wild (see previous conversations here and here). Let us know what uses you might have for APIs like these, recommended tweaks, or suggest APIs you want to see in the future.

Posted in Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Wireless Open Government Spectrum Dashboard Reform - Data Data Developer Api

Report from CES: Your Connected Car

Posted January 14th, 2011 by Joel Gurin - Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

For years, a major topic at the Consumer Electronics Show has been the increasing sophistication of in-car electronics. Six-speaker sound systems and GPS mapping were only the beginning.  New cars today are often available with options that provide news, entertainment, communication, route planning, and safety – all enabled by wireless broadband.  Many auto manufacturers are pushing the envelope of car connectivity.  For instance, General Motors has the prototype EN-V – a tiny concept car that can use broadband to navigate itself and that comes when you call it from your smartphone.

At a standing-room-only session at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, attendees heard from a roster of companies that are now providing apps for cars. OnStar, a pioneer in the field, is growing its paid-subscription service to provide vehicle security and safety. Pandora, which millions of people already use for a personalized radio experience, is seeking to become as easy to use in your car as it is on your laptop or smartphone. Other companies are specializing in speech recognition, in-car systems integration, and other approaches to make a range of automotive conveniences seamless and safe.

As impressive and enjoyable as this technology can be, there’s a clear potential downside: Driver distraction. We’re still trying to figure out how to deal with the problem of texting and driving, a deadly trend that both government and industry are fighting together.  The Department of Transportation is leading the Federal effort, CTIA launched a teen safe driving initiative, and the FCC hosted a workshop and developed an information clearinghouse on distracted driving. Now these mitigation efforts are further complicated by the increasing range of electronic options that tempt drivers to take their eyes minds off the road.

The good news is that the auto industry is recognizing the risk, more openly than when these innovations were presented at CES a year ago. One auto executive on the apps-for-cars panel put it bluntly: “If we don’t do our job well in our space, we can introduce things that can kill people.” In a session on driver distraction and safety, CES brought together David Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, with experts who have monitored the behavior of drivers and the behavior of cars (a field called telematics) to analyze the problem and find solutions.

While this is still a controversial area, the speakers at CES generally agreed on a few key points that suggest the challenges that still lay in front of us. First, many believe that straightforward bans on texting while driving will not have the hoped-for effect. We have now become so used to living wired lives that it’s hard to give up connectivity in the car; as one speaker said, tongue in cheek, “driving is starting to get in the way of our social networking.” Second, it’s clear that broadband connectivity, with all the apps that it brings, is coming to most cars, and that consumers will increasingly demand it. And third, all this innovation must be managed safely for the good of consumers and of the industry itself. A wake-up call came last week when Consumer Reports denied its Recommended designation to two Ford vehicles because of their distracting voice-and-touchscreen systems.

Several major auto companies are putting their engineers to work to make their cars safe, as well as connected and entertaining. Ford is continually improving its Sync system, a popular option now available in all its vehicles, which uses voice commands to provide music, podcasts, and directions with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The high-end Mercedes M-Brace system uses voice commands and telematics to provide phone connectivity, entertainment, and safety and security protections. Other automakers are taking similar approaches to the new world of car electronics.

All these advances will provide new options for car buyers – and new challenges for policymakers concerned about auto safety.  What do you look for in a car, and what are your views on safety and driver distraction? Please add a comment to let us know.

Posted in Events Wireless Consumers

Chairman Genachowski and FCC Staff Take In CES 2011

Posted January 10th, 2011 by George Krebs

Tablets and TVs; gadgets and tech-integrated vehicles; tech-enhanced musical instruments and heavily promoted headphones; innovative toys, energy efficient designs and wireless enabled products of all sorts. Sunday concluded a busy span of stunning technology pageantry in Las Vegas. Thousands of booths were set up and over 100,00 interested device enthusiasts arrived from all over the world for the Consumer Electronics Show , known more commonly as CES (or in this ever expanding, 140-character world, #CES).

Chairman Genachowski, all four Commissioners, and a retinue of FCC staff converged on the convention floor. They got a look at technology – from a wide range of companies – on the horizon and a sense of what’s upcoming in the innovation space. Many of the exhibits in sight shouted wireless and they shouted mobile.

On Friday, day two, the Chairman gave a speech on the need for expanded spectrum offerings and then sat down to chat with the host of the event, CEA CEO Gary Shapiro. This is what the Chairman said:

"As evidenced by the trade show floor, the consumer electronics industry is going wireless, and the future success of this industry and our innovation future depends on whether our government acts quickly to unleash more spectrum -- the oxygen that sustains our mobile devices. 

We’re in the early stages of a mobile revolution that is sparking an explosion in wireless traffic.  Without action, demand for spectrum will soon outstrip supply. 

To seize the opportunities of our mobile future, we need to tackle the threats to our invisible infrastructure.  We need to free up more spectrum."

Read the Chairman’s full speech.

As our team makes their way back to Washington, we’ll bring you their takes and some collected insights. For now, enjoy this video from the Washington Post, showing the Chairman touring the CES floor, speaking to the unbounded potential for job growth on display, and managing to get in a quick game of ping-pong using Microsoft’s Kinect.

(Cross posted on Blogband. Please leave comments there.)

Posted in Events FCC Staff Wireless National Broadband Plan Consumers Mobile
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Spectrum Dashboard Gets An Upgrade

Posted November 18th, 2010 by James Brown - Wireless Telecommunications Bureau

On Wednesday, November 17, the first in a series of enhancements to the Spectrum Dashboard were released.  Along with this release, we are excited to announce that the Dashboard is no longer in beta.

The response we’ve received about the Dashboard has been remarkably positive and in the eight short months since its initial release, almost 200,000 searches have been conducted.  To crunch those numbers further – the Dashboard is being searched about 25,000 times a month or in other words, 800 times a day.  Wow!  What’s more impressive is the volume of activity has been pretty consistent month-to-month.

While this week’s release may not be the biggest or the flashiest, it is however, the starting point for bigger and better things to come.  For example, in the next few months, the Dashboard will include additional releases to track leased spectrum, search for licenses across tribal lands, customize maps, and use Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to access data from the Dashboard.  We don’t plan to stop there.  We will continue to evaluate potential candidates for future enhancements.

Here are some of the changes to the Dashboard released this week.

Advanced Search. The Advanced Search replaces the “License Categories” search and includes several different search criteria located at the same place, including the ability to search for licenses by channel block.  For example, a user can search for all of the licenses in the 700 MHz band or can tailor a search by only searching for A-block licenses in the 700 MHz band.

Auto Complete for Name Search. The auto complete function allows a user to search by a name and the Spectrum Dashboard will display all names that include the string of letters/characters entered.  For example, by entering “Wire,” a list of all names that include “Wireless” will be displayed.

Changes to Filters. The filters have been enhanced to allow a user to open and close filters, as they deem appropriate and to include an additional filter for channel blocks.

• Downloading Results.  When a user downloads results by clicking on the “Export Results” link, the results will download automatically if the results are 65,000 rows or less.  If the results are more than 65,000 rows a user will receive an e-mail when the results are available.

We are looking forward to improving the Dashboard even more and encourage you to continue providing feedback.

Posted in Wireless Open Government Spectrum Dashboard Data Developer Api
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Crunching the Numbers Behind the Spectrum Crunch

Posted October 21st, 2010 by Rob Alderfer

By Robert Alderfer and Tom Peters

The explosive growth of mobile communication is fueling our economy, creating jobs and spurring innovation at lighting fast speeds. But, it is also taxing our nation’s spectrum.

Spectrum is the finite national resource that makes all forms of wireless communication possible. Data usage over wireless networks is rapidly increasing as more consumers surf the web, check email, and watch video on the go, and more mobile device such as smart phones and tablets enter the market. This new demand for mobile spectrum is rapidly pushing us towards the point of running out of open spectrum.

The National Broadband Plan put numbers on the looming spectrum crunch, and made it clear that the time to act is now. The plan recommended that 500 megahertz of new spectrum be made available for broadband, including 300 megahertz in the next five years. The President has issued a call to action for wireless broadband. Clearly, new spectrum for wireless broadband is important to ensuring that we lead the world in mobile.

Today, the FCC is releasing a white paper entitled, “Mobile Broadband: The Benefits of Additional Spectrum.” This technical and economic forecast of mobile broadband market trends sets forth future spectrum needs in a concrete, data-driven fashion.

Today’s forecast demonstrates that the amount of mobile data demanded by American consumers is likely to exceed capacity of our wireless networks in the near-term, and that meeting this demand by making additional spectrum available is likely to create significant value for the economy. In addition, new mobile broadband spectrum will support innovation in other important areas – such as breakthrough tools to improve education through mobile online learning, enhancing health care through potentially life-saving remote diagnostics, and promoting energy efficiency by supporting the smart grid.

Some of the key findings in the white paper are:

  • Within the next five years, the spectrum deficit is likely to approach 300 megahertz.
  • This spectrum crunch will be driven by significant growth of mobile broadband traffic, on the order of 35 times recent levels.
  • Mobile broadband growth is likely to outpace the ability of technology and network improvements to keep up by an estimated factor of three.
  • Meeting this need may create $120 billion in spectrum value, with hundreds of billions more in total value to the economy as one considers broader macroeconomic effects.

The National Broadband Plan noted that making new spectrum available has historically taken between 6 and 13 years. Today’s forecast of the looming spectrum crunch makes clear the need for timely action to realize the wireless economy of the future.

So, take a look at the paper, and give us your feedback. What’s the best way for the nation to meet the growing need for mobile broadband spectrum?

(Cross-posted at Blogband)

Posted in Wireless National Broadband Plan
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Join us for the Spectrum Summit

Posted October 20th, 2010 by George Krebs

By John Leibovitz

At last week’s Commission meeting, Chairman Genachowski announced that the FCC will be hosting a Spectrum Summit to bring together creative thinkers to solve the looming spectrum crunch and ensure enough airwaves are available for Americans’ growing appetite for mobile broadband.

The Summit is now here – it kicks off at 10 am tomorrow (Thursday) -- and will be carried live at FCC.gov/Live.  And we’re very pleased that C-SPAN has agreed to join us as well.  You’ll be able to find video archives there and in the FCC’s video archive on the web.

It promises to be an interesting day.  Mobile broadband demand is growing at an astounding rate, and we’re bringing together some the key players in industry, government, academia, and the investment community to discuss how we can best help spectrum supply keep up.

Check out the agenda here, and tune in tomorrow!

Posted in Events Wireless Telecommunications Bureau Wireless
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Next Steps on Nonvisual Cell Phone Access

Posted September 24th, 2010 by Jamal Mazrui - Deputy Director, Accessibility and Innovation Initiative

Let me encourage anyone interested to submit comments to the Commission regarding accessibility of cell and other phone technologies to people who are blind, deaf-blind, or have low vision, in furtherance of Section 255 of the Communications Act. Such comments are due by the end of Thursday, September 30, 2010. Initial comments have already been filed, and currently, a reply comment period is underway.

The public notice is entitled "Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Seek Comment on Accessible Mobile Phone Options for People who are Blind, Deaf-blind, or Have Low Vision." It may be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document from the following web address:


Comments may be filed using the web form of the FCC's Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS), located at:


A web form on that page allows one to upload a word processor document, e.g., in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be typed or pasted into a simpler web form called ECFS Express, located at:


At the prompt for the docket, input:

CG Docket No. 10-145

Comments may be of any length and address any relevant issue. They will affect how the Commission handles government responsibilities in this area.

(Cross-posted on Blogband)

Posted in Wireless Consumers
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