Americans live in a consumer driven culture. Throughout the years, our society has been compelled to consume via text, radio, television, and now, the Internet. The methods of consuming data via the Internet have changed, however, and mobile data consumption is on the rise. In fact, mobile data consumption has exploded over the last few years.
According to a new study from CTIA, American mobile users have consumed 1.1 trillion megabytes between July 2011 and June 2012. That’s a massive increase of 104 percent over last year’s 568 million megabytes. All this data consumption must mean people are using mobile devices a lot more, right? Surprisingly, that is not the case. The study found that mobile use only rose three percent over the last year.
So, what’s causing the increase in data? A number of factors seem to be at play here. For one, MMS message use is on the rise. The regular SMS text message is still the king with 2.273 trillion text messages sent over the last year, but mobile users sent a combined 58.3 billion MMS messages over the last year. That’s a 10.6 percent increase over last year.
The CTIA also attributes the growth to increases in cell sites around the country. They found that wireless carriers have added 28,641 cell sites over the last year for a total of 285,561. The carriers are also upgrading more of their 3G networks to 4G. This only further encourages more data use as more people have access to faster networks for streaming video, music, and other data intensive services.
“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. Thanks to the fiercely competitive wireless industry, consumers have a variety of choices from which provider to contract or prepaid plans to devices,” said Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA. “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 its brought to market quickly so that our members may continue to innovate and invest in our nation’s economy.”
As Largent points out above, the continued growth of mobile data consumption is becoming increasingly reliant on carriers buying up more spectrum. At its current growth, mobile data consumption could eat through the amount of available spectrum in just a few years. Wireless carriers will need to buy up more spectrum to provide the necessary bandwidth that users expect.
You can check out a preview of the CTIA’s report here. They also have the full survey available for purchase if that’s your thing.