Wireless data traffic grew 123% in the U.S. last year

As sales of smartphones and tablets reach all time heights, consumers in the United States are streaming more movies, downloading more apps and viewing more websites on their wireless devices. According to a recent report from the CTIA, annual wireless data traffic in the U.S. grew 123% from 388 billion megabytes in 2010 to 866.7 billion megabytes in 2011. The survey also found that the number of active smartphones in the U.S. increased by 43% to 111.5 million units in 2011 compared with 78.2 million in 2010. “As the President, bipartisan members of Congress, FCC Chairman and Commissioners and other policymakers have repeatedly advocated, the U.S. wireless industry must have access to more spectrum so we can continue to improve our nation’s economy and meet our consumers’ demands,” Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA, said in a statement. In order to handle the massive demand for wireless data, U.S. mobile carriers are continuing to invest in their networks through 4G upgrades and increased coverage and capacity with more cell sites. Read on for CTIA’s press release.

CTIA-The Wireless Association® Semi-Annual Survey Shows Significant Demand by Americans for Wireless Broadband

Americans used more than 123 percent more wireless data traffic in 2011 than 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The amount of wireless data transmitted by Americans continues to increase at an impressive rate, as the CTIA-The Wireless Association® semi-annual survey revealed, which was released today. The annual U.S. wireless data traffic grew 123 percent from 2010 (388 billion megabytes) to 2011 (866.7 billion megabytes). According to the survey, there was a 43 percent increase in the number of active smartphones and wireless-enabled PDAs in 2011 (111.5 million) compared with 2010 (78.2 million). With almost 95 percent of these devices capable of transmitting wireless data, Americans’ voracious appetite for anywhere and anytime mobile access is why the wireless industry needs more spectrum.

To put the wireless data traffic of 2010 compared with 2011 into perspective, if you were walking and listening to five songs per mile and each song lasted for four minutes:

In 2010, you would walk 77,601,961,033 miles, or the equivalent of 3,116,419 times around the world for 2,952,890 years and listen to 97 billion songs.

In 2011, you would walk 173,364,056,929 miles, or the equivalent of 6,962,132 times around the world for 6,596,806 years and listen to 216.7 billion songs.

In order to handle Americans’ demand for wireless data, mobile providers continued to make significant investments in their infrastructure, from upgrading networks from 3G to 4G to increasing the number of cell sites to improve coverage and capacity. In 2011, they reported $25.3 billion in capital expenditures, which was up 2 percent from 2010. Since 2001, wireless providers invested $246 billion in capital expenditures, so they can meet consumers’ demands for wireless access anytime and anywhere. This number does not include the billions that wireless companies paid the U.S. government to license spectrum. Also important to meeting demand was the 2009 FCC shot clock ruling that required local governments to make decisions on tower siting proposals within specific timeframes. 2011 was the largest annual increase of operational cell sites with 283,385 at year-end, which was 30,299 more than 2010.

The 12-month survey results for 2011 are:

Wireless subscriber connections: 331.6 million (104.6 percent penetration); Dec. 2010: 311 million (7 percent increase).

Wireless network data traffic: 866.7 billion megabytes; Dec. 2010: 388 billion megabytes (123 percent increase).

Active smartphones and wireless-enabled PDAs: 111.5 million; Dec. 2010: 78.2 million (43 percent increase).

Number of active data-capable devices: 295.1 million; Dec. 2010: 270.5 million (9 percent increase).

Wireless-enabled tablets, laptops and modems: 20.2 million; Dec. 2010: 13.6 million (49 percent increase).

Minutes of Use (MOU): 2.296 trillion; Dec. 2010: 2.241 trillion (2 percent increase)

SMS sent and received: 2.304 trillion; Dec. 2010: 2.052 trillion (12 percent increase).

MMS sent and received: 52.8 billion; Dec. 2010: 56.6 billion.

Average local monthly wireless bill (includes voice and data service): $47.00; Dec. 2010: $47.21.

“Americans’ love for mobile products and services continue to grow. Our survey shows yet again that we are choosing to have more than one wireless device, including smartphones, tablets and e-readers, which is why the wireless penetration rate is almost 105 percent. Yet as the President, bipartisan members of Congress, FCC Chairman and Commissioners and other policymakers have repeatedly advocated, the U.S. wireless industry must have access to more spectrum so we can continue to improve our nation’s economy and meet our consumers’ demands. While the spectrum identified in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation was a great start, there is much more work to be done,” said Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA. “We look forward to working with all of the interested parties to quickly bring more spectrum to auction so our members may purchase it, continue to invest and create jobs and ensure wireless U.S. consumers remain enjoying the world’s best wireless products and services.”

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