Four billion people still have no access to the Internet. Even in the West, hundreds of millions of folks either have no access or can’t afford it. It’s a huge deal. But it can be fixed. And here’s how: Spectrum sharing.
This analysis by Mobile Experts says the cost of mobile access is twenty to sixty times higher than the cost of fixed access. If we’re going to get everyone online with wireless, this has to change.
The reason for the huge cost discrepancy lies in the structure of the industry: Exclusive radio spectrum costs billions to acquire and so do the networks that deliver it. Everything in mobile – including what consumers pay for the service – has to fit into that economic structure.
Compare this to Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi spectrum costs nothing and there’s lots of it. The network to deliver Wi-Fi services costs peanuts compared to mobile, even down to $20 for a router. In the US alone, the FCC estimates that Wi-Fi creates a yearly economic surplus of $140 billion dollars.
So what’s been driving this huge success? It’s sharing.
Wi-Fi shares spectrum just like Uber shares cars and AirBnB shares homes – except it’s for free. Sharing is at the core of how the Internet is continuing to transform the world economy. And it could also transform how we connect to the Internet itself.
Sharing means that more companies & individuals can get involved in developing and using a technology. It also means more innovation, more startups, more business opportunity, and countless other benefits.
Wi-Fi has proven beyond any doubt that spectrum sharing works. Now we need to take the next step and allow spectrum sharing in many more bands. Facebook recently petitioned the FCC to open up more so-called ‘5G’ (mmWave) spectrum for sharing. When anyone can use a frequency band, users need to share it fairly for it to work.
And it will work. Because the technology already exists. The only thing missing is the will to do it and the leadership to make it happen.