THE BANDWIDTH BUBBLE BURSTS

4G auctions in stark contrast to tech realities

Advances in smart mobile devices continue to boost demand for bandwidth-intensive new applications.

Today’s so-called fourth generation 4G mobile technology allows much faster internet connections and operators have built the networks capable of running them at full speed – which allow you to download movies in seconds and make high quality video calls.

In 2013 mobile operators bid huge sums at the UK auction of 4G bandwidth for mobile phone services, almost doubling the mobile spectrum in use at the time.

While these spectrum auctions bring in huge funds for governments, and further the impression that there is a serious shortage of available bandwidth, these spends by the network operators may be seen as excessive if the demand for traditional mobile bandwidth should decline.

Could this ever happen? Technology itself is coming to the table with alternative bandwidth solutions that threaten to upstage the old paradigm that “there will always be a shortage of bandwidth.”

Buildings are now routinely fitted with LED lighting that creates almost unlimited bandwidth in the office – effectively obviating the need for last-mile local bandwidth.

And guess what? Most of the rest of the mobile network is actually made up of fiber-optic trunk connections. Most of what we call ‘mobile networks’ are actually not mobile at all, and not dependent on the availability of mobile bandwidth.

Simultaneously, mobile devices now contain wiring made of carbon nanotubes, that allows tiny light cells to generate their own power, without batteries, and interface with mobile networks far more effectively.

Rather than technology threatening to overwhelm the mobile networks, we can see the start of a quiet revolution that is taking demand for bandwidth in the other direction, and may make the 2013 investments in spectrum seem rather silly, with perfect hindsight of course.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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