Why Spectrum is Important to You

Wireless connectivity is the platform for innovation in the 21st century, and spectrum is what fuels our wireless services and our connected lives.

Your phone, your tablet and so many other wireless devices depend on spectrum. When carriers have more spectrum, your wireless networks are faster and better.  

Spectrum is a finite natural resource, and its use is controlled by the federal government. While policymakers have made some progress in freeing up more spectrum for commercial wireless use, more work is needed. Here’s why.

  • Demand for Mobile Data Continues to Increase. Mobile data use in 2014 was 26 percent higher than 2013’s record levels. Last year’s growth was four times the entire mobile Internet in 2009.

    Mobile broadband use will only continue to increase. By 2019, mobile data traffic is expected to be nearly six times 2014’s traffic, thanks to the evolution of wireless beyond voice and text – it’s now video, health, retail, energy and the Internet of Things (IoT). 

    Mobile data projections have proven remarkably accurate PDF icon. In 2010, the FCC’s growth rate projections predicted mobile data traffic of 562 petabytes (PBs) each month by 2014; the actual amount was 563 PBs per month.

  • Spectrum Supply has not Kept Pace with Wireless Demand. In 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) identified the need for up to 300 MHz of additional licensed spectrum for mobile broadband by this year. Despite the successful AWS-3 auction and other reallocation efforts, we have only achieved 45 percent of that target amount. The upcoming incentive auction is the last major spectrum auction planned for traditional licensed spectrum. 
  • Wireless is a Tremendous Economic Driver. Spectrum licensed to U.S. wireless carriers generates more than $400 billion annually PDF icon in economic activity.

    The positive effect of licensed spectrum also extends to job creation: for every one person employed in the wireless industry, an additional 6.5 people get jobs. Wireless jobs are good-paying jobs, with salaries 45 percent higher than average. Wireless carriers invested $166B directly into our networks since 2009, and $32 billion last year (2014) alone.

  • The U.S. Leads the World in 4G– and Our Competitiveness Must Extend to 5G. The U.S. is the world-leader in 4G: 93 percent of Americans can choose from 3 or more LTE networks, over 9 of out 10 mobile apps are from U.S. companies and 90 percent of phones have U.S. operating systems.  

    But other countries, from Korea and Japan to those in the European Union, already identified 5G as one of the next economic engines. To keep our current leadership, and ensure it continues to 5G, the next generation of wireless technologies, we need more spectrum. 

350 MHz More Spectrum by 2020

We need a new five-year plan to identify and re-allocate over 350 MHz of new spectrum PDF icon for licensed mobile broadband services. In 2010, the FCC projected a licensed spectrum deficit of nearly 300 MHz by 2014, and a CTIA-commissioned report updates the FCC’s forecast to identify the additional 366 MHz necessary to meet the estimated six-fold increase in mobile data traffic by 2019. 

That work must begin immediately. Because it takes on average 13 years to reallocate and auction spectrum for wireless services.PDF icon

CTIA and its members stand ready to work with government partners and other stakeholders to build on our mutual history of collaboration to identify more licensed spectrum and ensure that the U.S. remains the world leader in mobile.


Across the country, CTIA President & CEO Meredith Baker discussed the importance of freeing up more spectrum. Here are some of those remarks and op-eds:

us senate commerce logo

House Subcommittee on Comms and Tech logo
International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies (ISART) logo


(Click thumbnail for full infographic)
13 Years and what do you get infographic
Licensed Spectrum logo

Facts and Research

Last updated: ​November 2015
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