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US wireless investment hits record high

The U.S. wireless industry invested nearly $35 billion to grow, improve and run their networks in 2021, according to CTIA’s 2022 Annual Wireless Industry Survey. The record-high investment marked the fourth straight year of increased capital expenditure.

This record investment is driving unparalleled results: 5G networks now cover over 315 million Americans, one-in-three American adults have a 5G device, and 5G is now the fastest-growing segment of the home broadband market. Wireless industry competition also helped keep prices low during a period of rampant inflation. While prices across industries are increasing, the cost of wireless decreased, continuing a 10-year trend that has seen the price of wireless service drop 43% with speeds increasing to 85 times faster. Survey results again showed increases in wireless data use, cell sites and data-only devices—indicators of the ongoing shift to the 5G Economy.

“Wireless is America’s most competitive industry, and that competition continues to spur record levels of investment to build the world’s leading 5G networks,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA President and CEO. “Wireless competition is also continuing to benefit consumers—pushing wireless prices down and bringing real competition to cable.”

CTIA’s comprehensive annual industry survey has tracked the evolution of the wireless industry since 1985. This year’s key findings show:

  • Extraordinary, Sustained Wireless Investment. Since the launch of 5G in 2018, wireless providers have invested nearly $121 billion in their networks, and $635 billion over the life of the wireless industry.
  • America’s Demand for Wireless Data Shows No Sign of Slowing. In 2021, mobile wireless data traffic skyrocketed to 53.4 trillion megabytes. The 11.2 trillion megabyte increase over 2020 alone is 1.5 trillion megabytes more than consumers used in all of 2015.
  • More Cell Sites Mean a Faster 5G Rollout. The nationwide rollout of 5G happened twice as fast as 4G, as infrastructure reforms continue to pay dividends. As wireless providers lay the physical foundation for our 5G Economy, they have added nearly 70,000 active cell sites since the FCC and state legislators modernized key siting regulations.
  • Trillions of Texts and Calls. In 2021, American consumers exchanged 2 trillion messages, more than 63,644 per second. And even with texting at their fingertips, millions of consumers still use voice calls to talk to friends and family daily—amounting to 2.4 trillion minutes of use in 2021.
  • Expanding 5G Networks Mean Explosive Device Growth. Consumers have embraced 5G technology, as the number of connected 5G devices grew 513% this year to 85 million.

CT Bureau

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