One should be skeptical at times about claims that a specific country is "falling behind" on some measure of communications intensity. Sometimes the issue is simply that the value of a particular innovation is not immediately grasped. Once the value proposition is clear, adoption seems to occur rapidly enough.
Some skeptics will argue that one would expect Cleland to take that view, as one virtually always will find Cleland taking positions that are "against" Google and "for" telcos. And there is little doubt that mobile service providers virtually always seem to be looking for more spectrum as they add more customers.
The new reality is that each of those new customers are starting to consume network bandwidth at unprecedented rates, compared to past usage of narrowband voice and messaging apps.
That isn't to deny that more spectrum will be needed, in most countries, as mobile broadband adoption increases. Nor are U.S. regulators unmindful of the need to clear unused former TV broadcast spectrum for mobile use. So the "auction gap," like many other past "gaps," will close over time.
Furthermore, what isn't immediately so obvious is what other spectrum assets already exist that can be "re-purposed," as U.S. mobile service providers are decommissioning older 2G or iDEN spectrum for new use by fourth generation networks.
And then there is spectrum Clearwire already has deemed surplus, the potential Dish Network, LightSquared and Nextwave spectrum, for example.
Long term, most service providers will need more physical spectrum. What isn't so clear is that there really is a spectrum auction gap that means anything terribly important at the moment.
In other words, one can be skeptical about the U.S. market, U.S. consumers or U.S. mobile service providers being in a fundamental sense "behind" other regions or nations in the area of spectrum auctions, as it once was argued the U.S. market was behind in some other important area of communications or application usage.
It is entirely correct to note, as a historical matter, that U.S. consumers have adopted some important new innovations at a slower initial rate than users in some other regions and countries. The key point is that, once consumers understood the value proposition, and the innovations were seen to have high value, the gaps almost abruptly vanished.
That is going to be the case for spectrum auctions or spectrum availability over time, as well.
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