Sprint’s CEO Dan Hesse recently announced his plans to try and acquire more wireless spectrum for his company. Recently AT&T and Verizon, the top 2 wireless carriers in the US, have been snatching up as much of this stuff as possible and it is becoming a scarce resource due to high demand. See the thing about wireless spectrum is it’s a little like the Oil our world is battling over; Spectrum is a finite resource and because of this all of the big carriers in the US are doing whatever possible to gain as much of the airwaves as they can. The U.S. government treats these airwaves as public property and because of it sells spectrum in auctions to cable companies and wireless carriers. But because there is only so much available the law of supply and demand is kicking in and it is becoming more and more expensive.
The notion of needing to have spectrum was what led AT&T to attempt to acquire T-Mobile last year. Not only does T-Mobile have a huge customer base and strong OEM relationships they also have a robust HSPA-42 network and a ton of wireless spectrum. If AT&T had been able to get the deal through they easily would have been the strongest and largest wireless carrier in the world, and that is one of the main reasons why the deal didn’t go through, they would have ended up owning too much of the public radio waves the government is attempting to ration out to suppliers.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse speaking to the fact that acquiring Clearwire could keep them comfortable with spectrum for a period of time.
Spectrum is what all our electronic devices use to connect to the internet, cable and phone lines. Spectrum operates between 30 kHz to 300 gHz and transfers information from everything like AM Radio to our cell phones. Different parts of the wireless spectrum are used for different technologies; so AM radio runs on a low frequency and has relatively low power where as a cell phone runs on a higher frequency. This is why when you buy a phone it will say, “rated for use on 1600,1700 and 1900 mHz networks.” (this is also why there isn’t a set LTE frequency that works in the US and Abroad yet, we use different spectrum bands) These are some of the bands that modern companies use to send our information around and that is why GSM and CDMA companies exist, to spread out the resources and traffic strain.
Since there is only so much information that can be sent over these lines, and carriers want to build stronger connections and networks, they are fighting for the higher end spectrum. Since they all are sharing the same frequency bands now they all want to own more space to operate their networks and lay claim to “nations largest 4G network.”
Sprint knows that Verizon and AT&T have large swathes of mobile spectrum and have the ability to spread their networks further across the US and make their networks even stronger. Knowing that LTE is becoming the new craze it is smart of Sprint to start looking to acquire more bandwidth to build a more robust network. The funny thing is because so many electronics that send out a signal using wireless spectrum, Sprint can go to companies that operate landline telephones or cable TV or even acquire a smaller wireless carrier or strike a deal to buy some of their supply since they don’t need as much as a larger, national wireless carrier does. Sprint needs to do this as soon as possible to ensure that as data usage grows and they add more users their speeds don’t grind to a halt because they can’t spread out the transfer of information over more signal space.
Let’s say instead of only having the 1600,1700 and 1900 mHz bands to run on they had the higher end 100,200 and 300 gHz bands; this would allow them to effectively run 100x the amount of data and still keep higher speeds. Of course everyone will be vying to do the same so Sprint will either have to outbid, outfox or acquire a smaller company like Clearwire or U.S. Cellular to compete with the big 2. I know one thing for sure, it is good for all of us as consumers when there is more competition putting out premium products so hopefully Sprint and Mr. Hesse can think of something soon. What do you think about the fight over wireless spectrum? Should we be finding new ways to transfer our wireless signals or are we doing ok as is?