The wireless industry has reached the limits of what it can do to use radio spectrum more efficiently and needs to move on to making networks more dense through tools such as femtocells, the cofounder and the current CEO of Qualcomm said Thursday.

Appearing together on the main stage of the CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment show in San Diego, cofounder Irwin Jacobs and son Paul Jacobs, the current chairman and CEO, reflected on the emergence of the wireless industry and shared their thoughts on some current issues.

Both said the quest for more efficient use of available spectrum, one in which Qualcomm has been intimately involved since it pioneered CDMA (Code-Division Multiple Access) technology in the late 1980s, is effectively over.

"We are getting to the point where, in the lab, we've sort of done what we know how to do to optimise any given radio link," Paul Jacobs said in answer to a question from CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent, who moderated the conversation. "We have to use different tricks now," Jacobs said.

Using more cells that each cover a smaller area, such as a home or campus, will be an important tool for getting more usable capacity out of the same amount of spectrum, he said. Carriers are beginning to introduce the smallest type of cell, the femtocell, for sale to subscribers.

"We think we can get maybe eight to 10 times improvement in user experience by building out dense networks and managing the interference between the macro network and the femto network," Jacobs said.

The shortage of spectrum has emerged as a hot topic, with the CTIA asking the FCC to find 800 MHz of additional mobile data spectrum and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski declaring a looming spectrum crisis at the CTIA show on Wednesday.