Americans used 82% more mobile data in 2018 than in 2017 according to CTIA’s 2019 Annual Wireless Industry Survey, as results showed an increase in wireless across nearly every metric, reflecting unprecedented consumer demand.
“Americans are consuming more wireless data than ever,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO, CTIA. “This exponential growth underscores the need to continue to free up spectrum to keep up with demand, and provide the much needed capacity for next-generation 5G networks.”
CTIA’s comprehensive annual industry survey has tracked the evolution of the wireless industry since 1985.
This year’s key findings include:
Wireless data use nearly doubles in just one year. Consumers used a record 28.58 trillion megabytes (MB) of mobile data in 2018. That’s 73 times more than was used in 2010, and equal to 250 million people playing Fortnite for 1,906 hours.
Industry investment on the rise. Wireless provider capital expenditures totaled $27.4 billion dollars—an increase of nearly $1.8 billion from 2017. Since the launch of 4G in 2010, the industry has made over $253 billion in capital investments.
5G deployment is underway. In 2018, the industry reported 349,344 cell sites in operation—an increase of more than 25,000 sites from 2017. That’s the biggest year-over-year increase since 2010-2011, when providers began deploying 4G.
Consumers are connecting more devices—especially Internet of Things products. In 2018, Americans connected 421.7 million mobile devices—up 21.5 million from the year prior. Of those devices, 284.7 million were smartphones. The biggest growth was in data-only devices, such as smartwatches, IoT devices, and connected cars—which saw an increase of more than 10% to 139.4 million devices.
Traditional talking and texting still play a key role in communication. While much of today’s wireless communication happens over wireless data, 2018 saw an increase in voice calls and traditional text messaging. Consumers spent nearly 2.4 trillion minutes talking on their mobile devices last year—up nearly 10% from 2017. They also exchanged over 2 trillion text messages (combined SMS and MMS), a nearly 16% increase year-over-year.
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