A white paper released late last week by the FCC underscores the urgency of a looming shortage of spectrum needed for mobile wireless broadband services, warning that, within three years, the wireless industry will be confronted with a spectrum deficit that will be driven by an anticipated 35-fold surge in mobile broadband traffic. The FCC released the paper at a spectrum summit that was hosted by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and attended by industry panelists as well as by the agency’s commissioners. Building on spectrum forecasts laid out earlier this year in the National Broadband Plan (NBP), the white paper concludes that mobile broadband growth is likely to outpace the ability of wireless networks to meet this demand by a factor of three, resulting in a spectrum deficit of up to 300 MHz by 2015. (Specifically, the NBP recommends that, within ten years, 500 MHz of additional spectrum should be assigned to mobile broadband, from which 300 MHz should be allocated for mobile flexible use within five years.) The paper further notes that the task of meeting this demand could create as much as $120 billion in spectrum value “with hundreds of billions more in total value to the economy.” Observing that the U.S. wireless market has reached an “inflection point” in which “demand will soon outpace the supply,” Genachowski stressed to summit participants that “the coming spectrum crunch is a vital strategic and economic issue for our country and a vital consumer issue since increased congestion will lead to growing consumer frustration with their mobile devices.” Not only did the panelists agree with Genachowski’s assessment, but some, such as Mary Brown of Cisco Systems, suggested that the FCC’s projection of a spectrum deficit by 2013 could be “ultra conservative.” As AT&T Senior Vice President Robert Quinn confirmed that “the FCC’s forecast and supporting analysis are fully borne out by what we see daily on our wireless broadband networks,” a spokesman for Intel urged the FCC to move toward an incentive auction model that could free up unused spectrum not only in the broadcast television bands but in other bands as well. Declaring that “I am pleased that we are starting to do the heavy lifting,” FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell promised to work with Genachowski “and all of my colleagues here to begin the process of putting more spectrum into the hands of consumers.”