Southern California commuters know exactly what happens
when too many people try to get somewhere on the same
freeway at the same time. Everyone sits there and no one gets
anywhere. Out of sight and (for most of us) out of mind, the
electromagnetic freeway of wireless communication is facing the
same fate not far in the future if it is not used more efficiently.
The spectrum may be invisible, but it's not infinite.
What does look infinite, or close to it, is the potential
marketplace of devices and services that use the spectrum and
demand increasingly larger expanses of it to fit their expanding
data. More people are going wireless and demanding richer
content when they do. They're surfing the Internet at the local
Starbucks, for instance, rather than just chatting on the cell
phone. Meanwhile, new devices keep piling into the wireless
networks. Radio sensors beam signals to track merchandise.
Robots and other gadgets keep doctors posted on patients.
And much of the spectrum is already allocated to designated
uses such as AM and FM radio, television, mobile phones,