CTIA Survey Shows It’s Been a Great Decade for Cell Site Growth


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CTIA® yesterday released its Annual Wireless Industry Survey, which found the industry is beginning the transition from 4G to 5G wireless networks with significant growth in cell sites and data-only devices. That growth and continued demand for everything wireless contributed to Americans using an unprecedented amount of mobile data in 2017.

Several key wireless trends are illustrated in the survey: One key finding shows that the U.S. wireless industry is building wireless networks for tomorrow’s 5G services. To further extend coverage and prepare for 5G, a record 323,448 cell sites were in operation at the end of 2017—a 52 percent growth over the last decade. Analysts project that wireless carriers will need to deploy roughly 800,000 modern wireless antennas – small cells – in the next few years, and we are starting to see that investment now.

Another trend has mobile data continuing to skyrocket. Americans used a record 15.7 trillion megabytes (MBs) of mobile data in 2017—nearly quadrupling since 2014, and representing 40 times the volume of traffic in 2010, according to the survey. CTIA related that to being equal to nearly 250 million people simultaneously binge-watching every episode of Game of Thrones in HD. 

“This year’s report shows that wireless is on the cusp of a transformation to tomorrow’s 5G networks and the Internet of Things,” said CTIA President/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker, “underscoring the need for continued efforts to modernize infrastructure rules and create a spectrum pipeline that ensures continued U.S. wireless leadership in the global race to 5G.”

According to the association’s research, wireless connectivity is evolving with IoT/5G on the horizon. The survey captures the beginning of the shift from the 4G era to the 5G-connected everything-era. Data-only devices—such as connected cars, IoT devices and wearables—rose to 126.4 million in 2017, up nearly 20 percent year-over-year and 147 percent in the past five years.  

More than 400 million mobile devices are in service, meaning there are 1.2 wireless devices for each American. In addition to 15.7 trillion MBs of mobile data, U.S. wireless networks carried more than 2.2 trillion voice minutes and 1.5 trillion text messages.

Wireless provider capital expenditures totaled $25.6 billion in 2017, and since 2010, when 4G networks were launched, capital investment has exceeded $226 billion. For the topline results of the 2017 survey’s key metrics, click here.

July 12, 2018

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