Americans’ digital data consumption keeps on rising fast, growing 104% over the 12 months to July 2012 and surpassing 1.1 trillion megabytes (MB), CTIA-The Wireless Association reports in its semi-annual report, which was released October 11 at MobileCON 2012 in San Diego.

Rapid growth in US consumer smartphone adoption also continues. At 131 million, smartphones made up 41% of the nearly 322 million wireless subscriber connections over the 12-month period. The number of media tablets rose to 22 million, nearly 17% of all wireless connections.

In addition, the number of prepaid wireless subscribers increased nearly 10%, from 68.4 million to 74.9 million—23.3% of total U.S. wireless subscribers. Subscribers’ average monthly wireless bill dropped 7 cents to an average $47.16 despite increased voice, data and text usage, according to CTIA.

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Other results from CTIA’s semi-annual 2012 survey include:

  • Wireless subscriber connections: 321.7 million (101 percent penetration); June 2011: 306 million (5 percent increase).
  • Active smartphones and wireless-enabled PDAs: 130.8 million; June 2011: 95.8 million (37 percent increase).
  • Number of active data-capable devices: 300.4 million; June 2011: 278.3 million (8 percent increase).
  • Wireless-enabled tablets, laptops and modems: 21.6 million; June 2011: 15.2 million (42 percent increase).

Comparing figures from 2012 with those from 2011, CTIA found:

  • Wireless network data traffic: 1.16 trillion megabytes; June 2011: 568 billion megabytes (104 percent increase).
  • Minutes of Use (MOU): 2.321 trillion; June 2011: 2.251 trillion (3 percent increase).
  • SMS sent and received: 2.273 trillion; June 2011: 2.206 trillion (3 percent increase).
  • MMS sent and received: 58.3 billion; June 2011: 52.7 billion (10.6 percent increase).
  • Average local monthly wireless bill (includes voice, data and text): $47.16; June 2011: $47.23 (0.2 percent decrease).

Looking to cope with burgeoning mobile data demands, the number of cell tower sites put up by wireless telecom providers continues to grow, thanks in large part to the FCC’s 2009 “shot clock ruling on tower siting,” CTIA points out. There were 28,641 cell sites added this year, bringing the total number to 285,561 nationwide.

While a greater number of cell towers helps reduce the strain on mobile telecom providers’ networks, additional spectrum is “the true answer to meet demand,” according to CTIA.

Wireless service providers also continue to invest in improving mobile services, putting more than $25 million of capital expenditure to work in this area over the past 12 months. As well as adding more cell towers, such efforts include network upgrades from 3G to 4G. Wireless providers have invested more than $230 billion in capital expenditures since 2002, which excludes what they’ve invested in buying spectrum from the U.S. government.

“As our survey proves, today’s wireless industry offers consumers not only the world’s best products and services, but also the best value. Americans are using more voice, data and text than ever before, but are paying less for their wireless usage than even a year ago,” CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent stated in a press release.

“Thanks to the fiercely competitive wireless industry, consumers have a variety of choices from which provider to contract or prepaid plans to devices. With the persistent increase in usage, this survey is another proof point for why our members need more spectrum to meet consumer demands. We appreciate the FCC’s NPRM on the incentive auction of broadcast television spectrum and hope that it’s brought to market quickly so that our members may continue to innovate and invest in our nation’s economy.”

A summary of CTIA’s 2012 semi-annual report is available via this link.

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