CTIA: Wireless industry investments top $30B in 2020

The CTIA trade association said the US wireless industry invested around $30 billion into networks during 2020.

July 27, 2021

2 Min Read

WASHINGTON – The wireless industry invested $30 billion in 2020 to power America's world-leading wireless networks, according to CTIA's 2021 Annual Wireless Industry Survey. This represents a five-year high and the third straight year of increasing capital expenditures, pushing cumulative industry investment over $600 billion.

The results of this remarkable investment speak for themselves: mobile speeds jumped 50% in the past year, 5G networks nationwide now cover over 300 million people and 5G for home broadband services—capable of over 100 Mbps downstream—are deployed in communities across the country. Survey results also showed increases in wireless data use, cell sites and data-only devices—indicators of the ongoing shift to the 5G Economy.

"These numbers show that while we were social distancing last year, U.S. wireless providers were busy both ensuring that wireless networks handled skyrocketing demand and constructing 5G networks, the foundation for our country's post-pandemic recovery," said Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA's President and CEO.

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

  • Remarkable and Sustained Wireless Investment. Over the past five years, wireless providers have invested nearly $140 billion, and over the life of the wireless industry, total capital investment is over $601 billion. This investment is in addition to the almost $200 billion in payments to the government for the spectrum needed to power wireless networks.

  • America's Demand for Wireless Data Continues to Grow. In 2020, mobile wireless data traffic topped 42 trillion megabytes, a 208% increase since 2016. Over the past decade, America's wireless users drove a 108x increase in mobile data traffic—an amount equal to Gen Z's 72 million members streaming TikToks for over 586 hours each.

  • Wireless Providers Are Building the Infrastructure for Our Country's Future. Over the past five years, operational cell sites have increased over 35%—and in just the two years since the implementation of historic federal siting reforms, more cell sites have been sited than the previous seven years combined. Now numbering over 417,000, these sites provide the physical platform for the U.S. 5G Economy.

  • Providers' Messaging Platforms See Continued Growth. Total carrier messaging traffic (SMS + MMS) reached 2.2 trillion, an increase of more than 119 billion over 2019, driven by a 28% jump in MMS messages as users send more GIFs, videos and other multimedia.

  • Internet of Things More Than Two-Fifths of All Devices. Data-only devices—think smartwatches, hotspots, and medical sensors, for instance—now represent 41% of all estimated devices. Totaling over 190M, these data-only devices have grown 272% since 2013.


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