Growing Wireless Investment Fuels Rapid 5G Deployment, CTIA Reports


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America’s wireless providers invested nearly $30 billion last year—a four-year high—to meet consumers’ unprecedented demand for mobile data and continue to build out the 5G networks that will power the U.S. economy over the next decade, according to CTIA. 

This investment helped prepare U.S. wireless networks for the traffic spikes and shifts from COVID-19 this year and handle last year’s 37 trillion MBs of mobile data. It represents a 30 percent increase from the year prior and is 96 times the amount of mobile data used in 2010, according to CTIA’s annual survey.  

“Thanks to remarkable levels of investment, America’s wireless networks are keeping us connected when we need it, giving consumers the best wireless experience in the world,” said CTIA President/CEO Meredith Attwell Baker. “This non-stop investment cycle differentiates the wireless industry and is paying real dividends as our members build 5G networks across the country, creating jobs and helping our economy recover.” 

CTIA’s Annual Survey has tracked the trajectory of the wireless industry for 35 years. This year’s key findings include: 

  • Wireless investment continues to rise. Industry investment increased to $29.1 billion in 2019, marking a four-year high. This accounts for 18 percent of the world’s spending on wireless, while the U.S. represents just 4.5 percent of the world’s population.
  • Mobile traffic continues to grow. Mobile traffic increased by 30 percent year-over-year to 37 trillion MBs. That’s 43 percent more than the industry’s first four years of data traffic combined and a 96-fold increase from 2010 when 4G was first deployed in the U.S.
  • The 5G rollout intensifies. Last year, the wireless industry added over 46,000 more cell sites—more than the combined growth from 2015 to 2018—to reach 395,562 active sites across the country and continue building the backbone of U.S. 5G networks.
  • Voice minutes and text messages continue to increase. Voice minutes are up nearly 30 percent to 3.1 trillion and text traffic increased to 2.1 trillion—up 52 billion texts from the year prior.
  • Total wireless connections are at highest total ever. Wireless connections increased by over 20 million for a total of 442.5 million and data-only devices like smartwatches and connected cars grew more than 25 percent to 174.8 million. 

“Such remarkable year-over-year progress shows the power of the wireless industry to deliver for American consumers when policymakers enhance a spectrum, siting and regulatory framework that promotes investment and competition,” added Attwell Baker. 

To see the topline results from CTIA’s 2020 Annual Survey, click here

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