Licensed Vs. Unlicensed – The Debate Rages On

Over at The Broadband Daily, Jesse Kopelman makes a case for unlicensed networks over the classic licensed networks, ostensibly for use as wireless broadband networks. Kopelman says that it’s six of one, or a half-dozen of the other: in licensed networks, the carrier spends money on licenses, in un-licensed the carrier spends money on additional base stations to get similar coverage. Of those two choices, Kopelman then says that it’s (socially) better to spend money on hardware than to give it to government for licenses. This is where there is room for disagreement. It’s easy for weary taxpayers to think that money given to the US Treasury is pure waste, but money collected for spectrum is money that will not have to be collected by taxes. Public spending on services like public transport, airport infrastructure, roads, etc. all pay functional dividends for years and years to come. Funds to the treasury are better for the country than buying radios manufactured in Asia(especially now that the US balance of trade is deep in deficit). A further weakness in the pro-unlicensed network argument is that Kopelman fails to discuss the massive real-estate rights acquisition story that goes hand-in-hand with every access point that needs to be installed. An independent business would find it prohibitively expensive, and organizationally cumbersome to install the 500 to 9000 WiFi access points it would take to cover the same area as one licensed cellular tower. But other than those two points, Kopelman does take some very astute jabs at the licensed spectrum crowd, and at Verizon Wireless in particular.

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