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Monday, March 04, 2013

Mobile data tops voice for first time

The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), an association representing the high tech manufacturers and suppliers of information and communications technology, finds in its 2013 ICT Market Review & Forecast that U.S. wireless data spending topped wireless voice spending in 2012 for the first time. It also found that U.S. wireless penetration surpassed 100 percent of the adult population.

In 2012, for the first time in the history of U.S. mobile telecommunications, more money was spent on mobile data services ($94.8 billion) than on mobile voice services ($92.4 billion). TIA predicts this trend will accelerate in the years ahead – with mobile data spend hitting $118.6 billion in 2013 (versus $86.4 billion for voice) and $184 billion by 2016 (versus $70.1 billion for voice).

Additionally, U.S. wireless penetration jumped over 100 percent in 2012 – rising to 102.5 percent for the year. TIA predicts that wireless carriers will add 40.3 million subscribers over the next four years, for a penetration of 111.3 percent in 2016

To accommodate data traffic growth, carriers are upgrading their networks, sending wireless infrastructure spending higher. In 2012, U.S. wireline spending was $39.1 billion, compared with $27 billion for wireless infrastructure. By 2016, wireline spending is expected to climb to $44.4 billion, while wireless will reach $38.4 billion.

These findings show that consumers have an increasing appetite for mobile data. Many households own multiple data-ready devices such as smartphones and tablets. At the same time, unlimited data offerings have disappeared from the market. This means consumers are paying more for the data they're using. 

There's plenty of debate about how the country's mobile broadband spectrum should be allocated to feed the demand. This market explosion brings with it an expectation of fast, immediate and dependable connections. Will we see the price of mobile data fall with added demand? It's an important question, as wireless services are eating up an ever growing portion of household budgets.