Mobile data volumes have increased 50 per cent in the year to June, having doubled over the year before that - so the crunch will always be with us. 5G just one of many data applications for spectrum that Ofcom wants you to think about.
The regulator today published a spectrum consultation focusing on mobile data.
Ofcom thinks M2M will need more spectrum, and Wi-Fi might too. And cellular data, which today can match the speeds of many domestic connections - although not always in the same place - should be permitted to keep pace as a fixed broadband alternative. 4G and 5G should provide between 3 times and 10 times the current capacity by 2030.
Some spectrum will come from bumping FreeView down to 600Mhz making way for 4G and 5G at 700Mhz. In addition the government has promised to release MoD spectrum at 2.3 and 3.4 GHz and to explore White Spaces. Ofcom also wants to know if there's demand for spectrum above 10Ghz.
In a short section that could give BBC and ITV planners a heart attack, Ofcom mulls giving spectrum used by DTT (digital terrestial TV), aka FreeView, to mobile data. But this isn't as daft as it sounds. The archaic historical allocation for TV comes at the expense of other uses - and if the population is in the future accessing the Public Service Broadcasters by IP, then reserving old spectrum for PSBs would make as much sense as allocating a couple of lanes of the M1 for horse-drawn carriages.
Somewhat bullishly, Ofcom predicts a 30 times increase in mobile data capacity relative to today, if no spectrum is allocated - and a 71 times increase if it is. This is a remarkable feat of prediction, given the amount of technological and market change that can take place between now and 2030. Even microprocessor gurus can't confidently predict the industry can confirm to Moore's Law from even a few years away - and spectrum wonks are not microprocessor gurus.
If it was clear even 10 years ago which wireless technology would win the 4G race, Intel wouldn't have plunked billions down the plughole, and ClearWire would be a global giant. (WiMAX lost).
The Consultation PDF can be found here.®