Wireless data use in U.S. nearly doubled in 2018: report

Demand for mobile data across nearly all metrics was up in 2018, according to CTIA. (Pexels)

Demand for mobile data across nearly all metrics was up in 2018, according to CTIA’s 2019 Annual Wireless Industry Survey.

The survey found U.S. consumers used 82% more mobile data in 2018 compared to 2017, using a record 28.58 trillion megabytes (MB) of mobile data. Some of that rise is due to more devices being connected to mobile networks. The report found there were 421.7 million mobile devices connected in 2018, an increase of 21.5 million devices compared to the year prior. Nearly half of those are smartphones, according to the report, and subscriber connections grew 5.4%.

But data-only devices, including smartwatches, IoT devices, and connected cars, saw the most growth during the year. Data-only devices grew 10% in 2018 to reach 139.4 million devices.

“Americans are consuming more wireless data than ever,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of CTIA, in a statement. “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.”


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Operators increased investments by $1.8 billion in 2018 to reach a total of $27.4 billion dollars, according to the report. For 5G deployments, the report estimates there are now 349,344 cell sites in operation, an increase of more than 25,000 cell sites compared to 2017. That increase represents the biggest year-over-year change since the deployment of 4G in 2010-2011. Overall, wireless penetration grew 4.9% in 2018, the report said.

Consumers also upped voice calls and text messaging during the year. According to the report, voice call minutes grew 10%, and texting grew 16% during the year.