Wireless Industry Survey Shows Huge Yearly Increase In Mobile Data Usage

When marketers say they're targeting mobile users, here’s why: The CTIA, the trade group for the wireless industry, reports that Americans used 82% more mobile data in 2018 than the year before.

That 82% figure meant consumers used 28.58 trillion megabytes (MB) of mobile data in 2018, up from 12.89 MBs in 2017. 

And that is 73 times more than was used in 2010 -- and equal to 250 million people playing “Fortnite” for 1,906 hours, the CTIA reports.

“Americans are consuming more wireless data than ever,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of CTIA, in a statement accompanying the release of the CTIA’s Annual Wireless survey. “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.”

The explosion of data usage begins to explain why advertisers, political candidates, sports leagues and entertainment producers are increasingly aiming at mobile users. In Korea, Samsung has introduced a full-sized television with a vertical screen to mimic the way many people watch videos on their phone. 



The CTIA points out that consumers spent almost 2.4 trillion minutes using their mobile devices on old-fashioned voice conversations -- up nearly 10%. And they sent 2 trillion text messages, up 16% from 2017.

For all the growth that represents, one thing that has not increased much is the number of people employed by carriers. In 2001, there were 203,500 "direct carrier" employees. In 2018, there were 206,855 -- about 62,000 fewer than were employed in 2008, its peak year. 

The wireless industry has pumped a cumulative $542 billion into developing the industry since 2001.

At the same time, revenues rose from $65.3 billion in 2001 to 187.8 billion in 2018, even as average monthly revenue per unit dropped from $49.79 in 2001 to $37.85 in 2018. 

In the intervening years, the number of wireless units of all types skyrocketed. There were 50 million smartphone users in 2009, and 285 million in 2018. (The U.S Census Bureau says there 327.2 million Americans in 2018, so smartphones are indeed ubiquitous.)

The CTIA was once known as the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, but has operated simply as CTIA since 2015.

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