With ‘spectrum crunch,’ smartphones might be coming to a halt

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Calling, texting, checking emails, increasing vocabulary from playing Words with Friends and even paying bills — because of smartphones, the purposes of cell phones are ever increasing.

And while some users of smartphones feel their world is increasing with the blessings of technology, a recent CNN article said just the opposite. The heavy usage of phones may eventually decrease the functionality of technology on hand held devices.

“The U.S. mobile phone industry said it is running out of the airwaves necessary to provide voice, text and Internet services to its customers,” CNN said.

The official description of this problem is known as “spectrum crunch.” Spectrum crunch is referring to the potential threat of crunching down on people’s phone efficiency — dropped phone calls, decreased data speeds and higher prices.

[pullquote]”The bands that wireless companies hold were broken up into small chunks across various markets, which was helpful in increasing competition in the 1990s,” CNN said. “But the patchwork nature has proven problematic for new technologies like high-speed 4G broadband.”[/pullquote]

Taylor Berhow, studying political science, only recently purchased an iPhone and said despite the short ownership, she personally could hardly even imagine not being able to so heavily rely on her smartphone.

“It wasn’t until I invested in a smartphone myself that I realized how much I was missing out on,” Berhow said. “I have everything I need at anytime I need it. I’ve especially utilized the email, calendar and reminder features. They make life so much more convenient and I’m so much more organized. I love knowing what’s going on in the world pretty much instantly, and, I’ll be honest, I jumped on the Words With Friends bandwagon pretty quickly.”

Going back would mean using 24 times less spectrum if users have an iPhone and 122 times less if using an iPad, according to the Federal FCC.

And while some people see their world crashing to a halt, others see the usage of smartphones as rather ridiculous, such as Melissa Stewart, from Boulder City, Nev.

“I’m already kind of critical toward people with smartphones because nobody knows how to use them in moderation,” Stewart said. “I already get frustrated in general with people with smartphones so if their data usage were to start impacting my personal calls (causing them to drop) then I would probably be even more frustrated.”

According to CNN one of the biggest road blocks to solving this potential spectrum crunch is the way in which the U.S. government has allocated spectrum.

“The bands that wireless companies hold were broken up into small chunks across various markets, which was helpful in increasing competition in the 1990s,” CNN said. “But the patchwork nature has proven problematic for new technologies like high-speed 4G broadband.”

While no quick fix is available for the inevitable issues that arise when the spectrum runs short, the reality is that the carriers will need to find more long term solutions than just purchasing more broadband use (a temporary solution currently being entertained by Congress).

“For a while we won’t notice the quality of service changes, but over time as devices get better and use more data, we’ll start to take notice,”  Altman, director of technology consultancy Altman Vilandrie & Co, said in the CNN article. “Consumers will notice it, and the burden will fall on the carriers to fix it.”

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