EDITORIAL

No to spectrum sale

Thomas R. Temin

On my typical suburban street, it seems every soccer mom or dad who whooshes by in a shiny SUV is yakking into a cell phone. The couple next door begins yukking it up before they back out of the garage.

A friend recently told me he watched a woman stumble across the finish line of the Boston Marathon as she informed someone'breathlessly, I presume'via cell phone of her accomplishment.

Who are these people talking to?

I also wonder, is it for this'the mindless proliferation of cell phone chatter'that the Defense Department must trash decades worth of wireless communications investment to clear radio bandwidth for commercial use?

As GCN's Dawn Onley reported in 'Defense in tug-of-war over spectrum,' there are 2,500 new cell phone users every hour in the United States [GCN, June 18, Page 1]. The service and hardware providers are locked in an endless duet in which ever-cheaper service begets growing volumes of phones at ever-lower prices.

To keep the game going, industry needs more bandwidth, which it dubs a commodity. Classic economics says that in a commodity, there is no such thing as a shortage'only a supply and a price. More demand for limited bandwidth means higher prices and slower growth. No more tiny little phones for $20 after rebates.

There's enough bandwidth for everyone. But industry wants DOD to vacate the spectrum's 1,755-MHz to 1,850-MHz range. Defense estimates the cost of the move at $4.3 billion over nearly a decade.

So the obvious question is, why can't industry buy and use the radio real estate it wants to push DOD into?

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has only started outlining his plans for a reorganized, mobile and flexible military. Next will come the political fights, their outcomes expressed in the 2002 and 2003 budgets. No matter what shape future armed forces take, the need for fast, secure mobile communications isn't going away.

The Bush administration should ice its predecessor's schedule for rule-making and auctioning off the 1,755-1,850 band until the government decides who can use it. If industry gets the band, then it should pay DOD's moving costs.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: [email protected]

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