Gobbling Up Wireless Spectrum Will Lead To Slower Speeds & Higher Prices

American consumers’ need to be constantly connected to wireless airwaves for using our smartphones, tablets and mobile devices will lead to the complete depletion of our wireless resources, says one report. And when that time comes, we’ll all be paying more, seeing dropped calls and slower data speeds. It might also cut down consumers’ options for wireless carriers.

The Federal Communications Commission estimates that the problem, called the “spectrum crunch” will be a big problem as early as next year, says CNNMoney. The wireless spectrum is a finite resource, and is the invisible infrastructure that rules all of our wireless transmissions.

When we hit the wall with our increasing usage rates (due to our insatiable need for videos, games, apps and email), things are going to get sticky real fast for customers.

“Network traffic is increasing,” says an official at the FCC’s wireless bureau. “[Carriers] can manage it for the next couple years, but demand is inevitably going to exceed the available spectrum.”

The way spectrum is distributed among companies and entities right now is uneven — some like NASA are just hanging on to spectrum they aren’t even using, and others have a lot more than other businesses. When spectrum starts to peter out, consumers are affected with dropped calls and slow data speed, something wireless carriers don’t want to have happen and get blamed for.

Congress is expected to vote in early March on the FCC’s plan to hold incentive auctions that would help realign existing wireless spectrum. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski says the auctions would not only help free up spectrum but also put billions of cash into the Treasury’s coffers.

Sorry, America: Your wireless airwaves are full [CNNMoney]