In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson laid out the problems his and other wireless companies face when it comes to the coming spectrum crunch:

The demand for mobile data is now roughly doubling every year. Smartphones use 30 times more data than the cellphones they replaced. Meanwhile, the supply of spectrum supporting mobile devices has remained the same since 2008.

That means we’re in a race against time. The demand for spectrum will exceed supply by 2013, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates. If that happens, the speed of the mobile revolution will slow down. Prices, download times and consumer frustration will all increase. And at a societal level we risk jeopardizing the future of our nation’s vital mobile Internet infrastructure, which is generating jobs and investment on a scale well beyond the first Internet boom of the 1990s.

Stephenson went on to call for smart government policies when it comes to spectrum allocation, including requiring those who hold spectrum to actually use it, and creating a national model for deploying wireless infrastructure. He also warned readers what will happen if demand for airwaves continues to outpace supply:

Billions of dollars of investment in spectrum deployment will lead to tens of thousands of jobs. It will also multiply the many innovations and high-tech jobs we see today in the development of mobile Internet applications. But when the industry is unable to obtain and deploy spectrum efficiently, we miss the opportunity to create good jobs—and consumers pay the price.

(AT&T is an IIA member.)