US mobile data growing while SMS falls, CTIA reports

Voice minutes were flat in 2012, the industry group said

U.S. mobile networks carried 69 percent more data traffic in 2012 than in the prior year, but roughly the same number of voice minutes and fewer SMS messages, according to the industry group CTIA.

The findings came from a semi-annual survey by the organization, which represents the nation's mobile operators. The results released Thursday covered the full year 2012.

Data traffic bounded past 1 trillion megabytes in 2012, rising from 866.8 billion megabytes in 2011 to 1.468 trillion megabytes last year, CTIA said. Other results show factors that probably helped to drive that growth. For one thing, the number of active smartphones (and "wireless-enabled PDAs") grew 36.4 percent, while even more data-hungry wireless-enabled devices, such as tablets and laptops, grew by 10.2 percent.

The total number of subscriber connections crept up by 3.3 percent to 326.4 million, more than the number of people in the country: Wireless penetration in the U.S. was 102 percent at the end of last year, according to CTIA.

However, the use of SMS declined, with 2.19 trillion text messages sent and received in 2012, down 4.9 percent from 2.3 trillion a year earlier. That may not mean consumers are sending fewer short text messages to each other but that more are using so-called "over the top" messaging services such as Skype and WhatsApp, which don't count toward SMS traffic totals. Meanwhile, SMS's multimedia cousin, MMS, grew by 41 percent to 74.5 billion messages sent and received. That's good news for carriers, though MMS use is still on a far smaller scale.

Subscribers spent more time talking on the phone in 2012 than in 2011, but only by a bit. Minutes grew by 0.2 percent to 2.2999 trillion.

The group and its carrier members have used growth in mobile data for years to support calls for more radio spectrum being opened up for mobile services. But in its press release announcing the latest survey results, the group put the spotlight on how much carriers are investing in their networks: $30.1 billion in 2012, up 19 percent from the prior year.

That's the most the carriers have spent in any year since the survey began in 1985, and it comes out to US$94 per subscriber, the group said. That sum also dwarfs the level of mobile network investment around the world, which averages $16 per subscriber, according to CTIA.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags mobiletelecommunicationctiaCarriers

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?