CTIA: Wireless Industry Greatly Increasing Spectrum Efficiency in Anticipation of 5G

As the rollout of 5G picks up steam worldwide, U.S. wireless providers are taking the necessary steps to optimize efficiency in their commercial spectrum assets to handle the anticipated massive “hockey-stick” type increase in data traffic, according to a new report from the CTIA.

Wireless data traffic has jumped from 388 million GBs use in 2010 to 28.58 TBs in 2018, an increase of 73x, the CTIA says in its in its report, “Smarter and More Efficient: How America’s Wireless Industry Maximizes its Spectrum.” At the same time, on a Mbps/MHz basis, U.S. wireless providers have increased their spectrum efficiency by a factor of 42 since 2010 and are now handling 39.9 billion megabytes (MB) for every one Megahertz (MHz) today vs. 948 million MB for every one MHz of spectrum in 2010.

In the past five years alone, the number of wireless subscribers in the U.S. has jumped 25% and the average smartphone owner uses more than 6.5 GBs per month, up from 1.1 GBs five years ago. With President Trump’s recently stated goal to “have more 5G spectrum than any other country in the world by 2020,” wireless providers are optimizing their use of spectrum by two ways: actively refarming existing spectrum holdings and quickly putting new spectrum to use.

“Wireless providers refarm to serve more subscribers with limited spectrum assets,” the CTIA said in its report. “In other words, refarming enables wireless to do more with less.”

CTIA says that 5G will increase spectral efficiency by more than 30% over current 4G/LTE-advanced networks. 

Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.