Siri and iPhone4S data use could push spectrum policy changes, analysts say


A man uses 'Siri' on the new iPhone 4S (Oli Scarff/GETTY IMAGES)

iPhone 4S users are gobbling up three times more data than users of the iPhone 4, due in large part to the voice service Siri, according to a study by networking software firm Arieso.

With all major wireless carriers offering Apple’s iPhone on their networks, they all risk congestion on their networks that will lead to dropped calls and slow service, some analysts say.

Analysts say the threat of wireless capacity problems could help carriers and regulators in their quest to free up more spectrum while also deflecting consumer groups’ concerns that tiered billing harms users.

“This suggests that the spectrum crunch may arrive sooner than people expected,” said Paul Gallant, an analyst at Guggenheim Securities. “It puts more of a premium on Congress doing what it can to put more spectrum into the market.”

That could specifically mean a better shot at legislation passing this February — attached to a payroll tax cut bill — that would free up prized airwaves held by willing broadcasters to be reauctioned to wireless providers.

The White House and Federal Communications Commission have pushed for the auctions of airwaves, which they project will raise nearly $28 billion to be used to reduce the deficit. Critics say they aren’t sure broadcasters would be willing to sell or if they could manage to raise as much as projected.

It would be at least three years before auctions actually took place, providng more airwaves for wireless providers to bolster their networks, experts say.

Related:

Verizon asks FCC to approve $3.6 billion spectrum buy from cable operators

White House pushes ahead on spectrum auction plan

Cecilia Kang is a senior technology correspondent for The Washington Post.

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