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Spectrum Crunch Slows Down Smart Phones

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(Credit: KDKA)

(Credit: KDKA)

Jon Delano Jon Delano
Jon Delano is a familiar face on KDKA-TV, having been the station's...
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you use your smart phone a lot, you may have noticed more dropped calls or slower speeds on your smart phone.

With so many people using iPhones, Droids, iPads and similar devices, the nation is running out of bandwidth.

Dan Nordstrom certainly has noticed. “It just slows down the whole time and then there certain times when it just won’t even load up. … Like I go to it and I just try to load up Google.com, and it just won’t even load.”

Dropped calls and slow downloads are getting worse because of spectrum crunch, a short supply of the invisible frequencies through which cellular carriers enable us to transmit information.

“We only have a very limited amount of wireless spectrum that can be used and there are a whole bunch of different parties that want to use it,” Carnegie Mellon Professor Michael Smith told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano.

The problem is not with your desktop computer, or even with your laptop computers connected through Wi-Fi. The big problem is smart phones. There are just too many people using these phones and downloading too much information.

If phones were limited to calls or texts, bandwidth usage wouldn’t be an issue. It’s those pictures, Facebook, Twitter and video that’s killing the available bandwidth.

Carnegie Mellon University Professor Ari Lightman says the entertaining elements of smart phones are the problem.

“Now that people are accessing their devices and want very bandwidth intensive transmissions like HD quality movies and gaming, that’s utilizing up large chunks of spectrum,” he said.

Part of the spectrum is reserved for the government, military and television, so cellular carriers can’t do much except cut our use by raising prices.

“Economics tells us that when a lot of people want to get access to a scarce resource, something’s got to give and typically it’s prices,” Smith said.

There is unused bandwidth owned by companies like Dish Network, but that doesn’t help the wireless carriers. So as service deteriorates and prices go up, “So now you’re going to think twice about streaming that video from Netflix on your mobile phone.”

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