The U.S. mobile phone industry is running out of the airwaves necessary to provide voice, text and Internet services to its customers.
The problem, known as the "spectrum crunch
," threatens to increase the number of dropped calls, slow down data speeds and raise customers' prices for cell phone service
. It will also whittle down the nation's number of wireless carriers and create a deeper financial schism between those companies that have capacity and those that don't.
There are potential solutions, but none are inexpensive
, easy to implement, or catch-all. And no major fixes are on the horizon.
The U.S. still has a slight spectrum surplus at the moment. But at our current growth rate, that surplus turns into a deficit as early as next year, according to the Federal Communications Commission's estimates.