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Mobile Carriers Face Spectrum Crunch [AUDIO]

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Here’s a story that will affect your wallet. The United States mobile industry is running out of the bandwidth used to provide many of the cell phone services we rely on.

The spectrum crunch could lead to more dropped calls, delayed text and e-mail messages and the end to unlimited data plans. As network traffic increases, the wireless carriers are looking at new technology to either extend existing channels or develop new ways to handle all the demand. The latter choice is vastly more expensive and would require users to abandon their current phones and tablets for new ones that would handle new processing. That isn’t happening anytime soon.

Townsquare Media Science and Technology Advisor Dave Loudon says the options are limited at this point. He says “it’s really going to be about company mergers. You are going to start seeing more providers teaming up to share the airwaves. The FCC controls the signals. It’s the same thing that happened with FM and AM radio years back. The bands have limits and the same holds true here.”

Louden says “in addition to higher prices, you’re gonna see possible slowdowns in service and maybe even a loss of signal in several areas. It’s already starting to happen. Even Verizon known for their unlimited plan got rid of it as soon as they introduced the Apple iPhone on their network.”

The U.S. still has a slight spectrum surplus. But as the demand continues to increase on a daily basis and more companies are offering internet, data, text and voice plans, the surplus will turn into a deficit as early as next year. That is according to data collected by the FCC.

One way they solved some of the problem was using abandoned television signals that were used up until the digital TV switchover a few years back. Mobile companies can also buy more space but Loudon says it’s limited. He adds “it’s not an infinite resource. Eventually it will be eaten up. I think they need to come up with ways to work with the existing technology or find something fast. There’s no way of telling for sure when it will all be gone.”

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