US mobile carriers invest $35 billion in 2021: CTIA

CTIA said that mobile carriers in the U.S. had invested a total of $121 billion in network infrastructure since 2018

U.S. mobile operators invested a total of $35 billion last year, marking the fourth consecutive year of increased investment, according to the 2022 CTIA annual survey.

This capex figure compares to an investment of $30 billion in 2020 and $29 billion in 2019.

Since 2018, the year 5G launched, mobile providers in the U.S. have invested over $121 billion in their networks, according to the report.

“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.”

In 2021, mobile wireless data traffic experienced a huge growth to 53.4 trillion megabytes, according to the report. CTIA highlighted that the 11.2 trillion megabyte increase over 2020 alone is 1.5 trillion megabytes more than consumers used in all of 2015. In 2020, mobile users across the U.S. used 42.2 trillion megabytes.

The CTIA report also noted that there were a total of 418,887 operational cell sites across the nation as of the end of last year. This figure does not includes the new 5G base stations added to existing cell sites.

“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,” according to CTIA.

“5G’s remarkable investment and rapid rollout have enabled an explosion in 5G adoption and 5G-enabled devices year-over-year. Today, 5G touches every facet of our lives, with 315 million Americans covered. Consumers have embraced the technology, leading to the number of 5G-connected smartphones and other 5G devices growing over 513% this year to 85 million,” CTIA said.

The country ended last year with a total of 85 million 5G devices, an increase of 513% compared to 14 million the previous year.

The report also revealed continuous growth in the IoT market. “Americans continue to add wireless connections, driven by growth in data-only devices—the medical sensors, smartwatches, hotspots, and more that run on wireless data. These devices make up an increasing share of overall connections every year.” In 2021, data-only devices accounted for 42% of all wireless connections, increasing from 190 million to 208 million since 2020.

The report also highlights investments carried out by operators to offer new services such as 5G for home broadband or 5G FWA. “This competitive new option brings enhanced capabilities to consumers, including 5G’s high capacity and low latency, by providing home broadband connections wirelessly via spectrum instead of through a wired cable connection,” CTIA said.

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