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Key Takeaways from CTIA’s State of Mobile 2018 Report

U.S. mobile data use continues its inexorable upward climb, setting a new annual record with 15.7 trillion megabytes of data sent over wireless data networks last year, according to CTIA’s 2018 State of Mobile report.

“Americans used a record 15.7 trillion megabytes of mobile data in 2017—nearly quadrupling since 2014 and representing 40 times the volume of traffic in 2010,” CTIA said, adding that that figure is “equal to nearly 250 million people simultaneously binge-watching every episode of Game of Thrones in HD.”

Among the highlights of the report:

-The industry continues to invest in infrastructure to support rising data use. CTIA said that about $226 billion has been invested in wireless networks since the launch of LTE in 2010, and that $25.6 billion was spent in 2017 alone. As of the end of 2017, there were 323,448 cell sites in operation, an increase of 4.9% year-over-year, CTIA said.

-Small cells are expected to finally hit the big time. CTIA estimated that at the end of 2017, about 13,000 small cells were in operation in the U.S. “This number is poised to increase dramatically as the wireless industry installs more small cells,” the group said, predicting a 550% increase this year to get to 86,000 small cells, with 800,000 small cells expected to be operational by 2026.

-The U.S. market has about 400 million wireless devices, or about 1.2 devices per person. Nearly 70% of those devices are smartphones, which on average generate more than 5 GB of data each month. Penetration of smartphones is highest among Millennials, with 94% of 18-to-29-year-olds owning smartphones compared to 89% of 30-to-49-year-olds and 73% of 50-to-64-year-olds.

-U.S. consumers exchanged 1.7 trillion SMS and MMS messages last year and spent 2.2 trillion minutes on voice calls.

-Voice cord-cutting continues, with 52.5% of U.S. consumers relying solely on their mobile device for voice service. One in five now rely on mobile networks for their home internet service, with cellular-only internet access highest among Hispanic households (35%).

– Carriers are adding many more IoT connections than human customers. In the first quarter of 2018, CTIA reported, “90% of new net-adds … came from areas like connected cars and the IoT.” CTIA said that “data-only devices,” which it considered IoT devices, grew 19.5% from 2016 to 2017.

-Operators are laying the groundwork for 5G. “This is the year that 5G networks will begin to be deployed. And for the first time, we’re capturing signs of a shift from the 4G era to the 5G era,” CTIA said in its report, adding that 5G is expected to be deployed in up to 30 markets by early 2019. The group said that China, South Korea and the U.S. are leading the global race to 5G (with China in the lead) and projected that economic benefits from 5G networks include $275 billion in investment, three million new jobs and $500 billion in economic growth. – RCR Wireless

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