THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Wireless companies seek more airwaves

The data explosion is fueling competition for frequencies. The data explosion is fueling competition for frequencies. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)
Associated Press / December 28, 2009

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WASHINGTON - Wireless devices make it possible to look up driving directions and update Facebook on the go.

But as mobile phones get more sophisticated, they transmit more data, and the spectrum of wireless frequencies is finite. Wireless companies fear they’ll run out of room, leading to congested networks. They want bigger slices of airwaves, even if others have to get less.

“Spectrum is the equivalent of our highways,’’ said Christopher Guttman-McCabe, vice president at CTIA-The Wireless Association, a trade group. “That’s how we move traffic.’’

The companies are eyeing frequencies used by broadcasters, satellite companies, and federal agencies. Some of those groups are pushing back.

Julius Genachowski, Federal Communications Commission chairman, said finding more frequencies will be part of a broadband plan due in February. The FCC’s attention for now is on broadcasters, which hold airwaves mainly used to serve the 10 percent of homes that still get only over-the-air TV signals.

Everyone agrees there are no easy pickings. “There is no open space anywhere,’’ said Kathleen Ham, a T-Mobile vice president.