CTIA: Wireless Subs Top U.S. Population

For the first time, wireless connections topped the U.S. population for the first time, according to CTIA: The Wireless Association's latest semi-annual mid-year (Jan.-June) survey, released Tuesday.

According to the survey of wireless carriers, there are 327.6 million* connections vs. a population, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, of 315.5 million. That is a 9% increase from thed 300 million subs according to the mid-year 2010 survey.

Annual revenue from all those subs was $164.6 billion for the 12 months ending June 2011, up 6% from the previous 12-month period.

That 327.6 million figure translates to a U.S. population penetration of 103.9%, which, since not everyone gets wireless, is possible, a CTIA spokesperson pointed out, because of multiple subscriptions. For example, one person might have a wireless Internet card, a smartphone, and a tablet.

The survey also found a 111% increase in wireless traffic from mid-year 2010, which, not surprisingly, CITA said was just more evidence of the need for wireless companies to "purchase more spectrum from the federal government."

The association has been pushing for Congress and the FCC to free up broadcast spectrum for auction to wireless companies, making the point they will be paying big bucks for it.

The average monthly wireless bill is $47.23 vs. $47.47 midyear 2010, or essentially flat.

Sales of smart phone and data-enabled PDA's jumped dramatically, up 57% from midyear 2010's 61/2 million to midyear 2011's 95.8 million.

CTIA said the wireless industry's annual capital investment in wireless for the first six months of 2011 was 27/5 billion, up 28% from June of 2010.

"By making underutilized or unused spectrum available for auction, carriers will continue to invest billions of dollars in their infrastructure, generate hundreds of billions of dollars in benefit to our economy and create up to a half a million new jobs while ensuring the U.S. maintains its position as the world's wireless leader," said CTIA President Steve Largent in a statement.

*According to CTIA, the survey captures results from companies serving 95.2% of all subs. It's sub figure from those was  312.9 million, with the balance of the 327.6 million derived from public non-respondents and non-public companies whose general totals were estimated based on age, market size and penetration.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.