The rate of wireless substitution for landlines grew by 51% between 2005 and 2006, according to the latest FCC Annual Report on the State of Wireless Competition, released yesterday. Ninety-nine percent of the U.S. population (61.3% of the geographic territory) had access to two or more wireless providers at the end of 2006. Ninety-five percent of the population had access to three or more competitors, and just over 56% had access to five or more. The FCC reports that 150 companies identify themselves as facilities-based terrestrial wireless operators within the U.S. Subscribership continues to grow, and reached 80% penetration, representing 241.8 million subscribers by year end 2006. The year 2006 saw an additional 28.8 million new subscribers, representing the largest absolute increase in subscribers ever. Approximately 82% of the population was covered by 3G data services, including EV-DO during the same time period.
Usage continues to grow as well, with the average subscriber utilizing 714 minutes of use in 2006, up from 708 in 2005. Text messaging is growing at a torrid pace, with 18.7 billion SMS messages sent/received in December 2006, versus 9.8 billion in 2005. Competitive metrics include 10.3 million subscribers porting their wireless number to a new provider in 2006, down slightly from 10.6 million who did so in 2005. Wireless substitution for landlines continues to grow, with 11.8% of adults having a wireless connection only, up from 7.8% in 2005. But among adults aged 25 – 29, 30% lived in homes with wireless only. The FCC report provides a wealth of information about the wireless industry, even if it’s slightly dated.