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Wireless Chiefs Plead For More Data Capacity

By Greg Bensinger Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Wireless company chiefs used a major industry conference to prod regulators to free up more airwaves to help relieve what they describe as a crippling data capacity crunch. Executives from Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA said the future of data use, such as streaming video and photos, is at risk if more airwaves, or spectrum, aren't put to use. Verizon Wireless Chief Executive Dan Mead, speaking at the CTIA conference in New Orleans, said the largest carrier will be maxed out in some markets as early as next year and most others by 2015. The carrier is seeking regulatory authority to buy $3.9 billion worth of spectrum from a group of cable companies. "We will put this spectrum to use quickly," he said. For T-Mobile's part, "we require more spectrum, more technologies to manage capacity," said CEO Philipp Humm. The carrier had hoped to be bought by AT&T Inc. (T) last year as part of a $39 billion bid that was ultimately stopped by regulators. Humm said average monthly data use on T-Mobile's network has risen more than five-fold over the past two years. Earlier on Tuesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski defended the agency's decision to stop the AT&T deal. "Some have argued that transactions--let's be frank, one transaction--is somehow causing a shortage," Genachowski said at the conference. "But the overall amount of spectrum hasn't changed." -By Greg Bensinger, Dow Jones Newswires; greg.bensinger@dowjones.com; 212-416-4676

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