This Sunday is Earth Day, and as the national conversation turns to the topics of sustainability and environmental awareness — for a day, at least — it’s worth highlighting the important role broadband can play in preserving our environment – specifically, the growing importance of Mobile to Mobile, or M2M, communication.
In a nutshell, M2M can be described as machines talking to machines over the air. Think of a power meter sending a reading back to the power company, rather than driving a truck all around town. Or irrigation monitoring to ensure water is being put to its best use.
These and scores of other efficiencies created by M2M technology are very real, and they benefit not just the planet but the economy as a whole. After all, greater productivity means less energy needed per dollar of output… more bucks per BTU. It also means a small environmental footprint.
Fittingly, the driving force behind M2M technology is one of our planet’s greatest natural resources: spectrum, or the airwaves that enable all our wireless communication. With a finite amount of spectrum suitable for wireless use, however, it needs to be managed in a smart and efficient way. And right now, we could do better.
Recent efforts by Congress and the FCC to free up more spectrum for wireless use are encouraging. The FCC’s incentive auctions, which will mean billions for broadcasters through the sale of their unused spectrum, will go a long way toward easing what the Commission’s Chairman and others warn of as a coming spectrum crunch.
But incentive auctions alone will not keep the wireless economy humming. Our nation’s providers are watching data consumption explode on their networks, and they rightly warn that unless major steps are taken to provide the airwaves they need — and will gladly pay handsomely for — they risk being able to keep up with unprecedented demand.
Addressing depletion of this resource will take not just short-term thinking, but an overhaul of the way our spectrum resources are currently managed. Given the speed of Washington, especially compared to the speed of technology, time is of the essence. A lack of spectrum going forward could mean higher prices and diminished service for consumers. It could also slow the economic and environmental progress being made through M2M technology.
We can’t afford to let that happen. So as we mark Earth Day, let’s keep in mind just how much we’ve come to rely on spectrum, and work toward putting it to its highest and best use.