Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cellular is Just the Tip of the Licensing Iceberg.

There is a perception that the cellular industry is the only game in town when it comes to spectrum. While it is true they are an "800lb Gorilla" both in terms of their size and spectrum holdings there are a few interesting numbers that provide a different perspective on life.

There are almost 2 million active licenses in the FCC database, discount the amateur radio licenses, the repair shop licenses and all the other odd ball stuff and there are still over 700,000 active licenses. Cellular only accounts for 8,000 of those licenses, roughly 1%. The big numbers are Public Safety, with over 148,000 active licenses and 'industrial/business" which accounts for around 400,000. Quite honestly the public safety number was a surprise to me. This is a number that begins to explain the magnitude of the spectrum management issue faced by Public Safety and Homeland Security.

To me the intriguing thing is the 400,000 industrial licenses. We live in the 21st century with a cellular service that is pretty reliable, ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive, so what is it that attracts industry to all those private 2 way, paging and P2P networks?

Is it still cost, availability, or something more subtle like the desire to be in charge of their own resources or the inability to overlay their business and applications on a cellular service model? As these industrial users begin to evolve to broadband wireless are they any more likely to adopt a cellular service provider than want to go it alone again?