What is Spectrum?


Every morning, the alarm you set on your smart phone wakes you up. You may yell across the living room to your virtual assistant, “What’s the weather today?” In no time, you’ll be sifting through your closet for an outfit that suits the UV index, rain prediction, and general temperature. On your way to work, you turn up Spotify to listen to a podcast or the latest tunes.

All of these devices and other wireless services rely on spectrum to operate. Spectrum consists of invisible waves that enable a wireless device to send and receive information instantly. The only catch is that there is only a finite amount of it.

If you and your neighbor both have multiple wireless devices like smartphones, tablets, and smart gardens, chances are, you’re probably using the same spectrum. The people, devices, and IoT that share this invisible wave grow everyday, and this demand puts a strain on the spectrum that is currently available.

The concept of licensed and unlicensed spectrum is simple.

Think of unlicensed spectrum like a public gym. The basketball courts are always overcrowded. It gets hard to hear Bon Jovi in your headphones because of the noise. Your turn using the machines is never guaranteed because there are simply too many people.

Using the same analogy, licensed spectrum is like a membership to a private gym. You scan your membership card at the front desk and you are granted access to the weight room, yoga classes, and the swimming lanes. From the window of your gym, you might see someone doing the same motions of your exercise. The difference is that you’re actually using a leg press machine while the person outside is just going through the motions.

Just like the private gym only allows members inside, you are able to legally manage who or what uses your licensed band. Licensed spectrum allows better performance, less noise, and greater reliability.

The next time you hear about someone who doesn’t understand what spectrum is, don’t worry. Just share this blog with them to get on them on the same wavelength.

For more information on how your 5G powered device and spectrum work together, this blog will get you up to speed. Hop on our wavelength and stay tuned to ACTWireless to discover more wireless updates, tips, technology, and policy updates.