There was general consensus that 5G wireless technology would be a key enabler in closing the digital divide. The question was whether private investment would be enough to build the infrastructure needed. A new report reveals that capital expenditures by mobile operators hit a record high in 2021 as 5G has seen tremendous growth and will continue to help connect homes that are not now covered by broadband.
CTIA’s 2022 Annual Wireless Industry Survey shows wireless carriers have invested $35 billion in building out and upgrading their networks, the fourth straight year of industry growth.
CTIA said this is “a powerful trend that emphasizes the societal importance of wireless connectivity and underscores the industry’s commitment to building a robust platform for innovation that connects all communities.”
5G has seen a quantum leap in growth since its launch in 2018, as infrastructure reforms that have lowered deployment barriers have seen 5G grow twice as fast as 4G. Cellular carriers have added 70,000 active cell sites since the Federal Communications Commission and state legislatures worked to modernize key location regulations that could have slowed the growth of the technology. There are now nearly 420,000 operational cellular sites in the United States
As CTIA notes, “More cellular sites improve coverage, drive adoption and help close the digital divide.”
Consumers clearly want faster mobile internet speeds as the number of 5G devices with connectivity increased by more than a whopping 500 percent over the past year, from 14 million to Accenture’s 85 million. About a third of Americans now own an active 5G device.
CTIA points out that the number of connections that require wireless technology is helping fuel growth – from smart watches to medical sensors. Such data-only devices make up about 42 percent of all wireless connections.
Wireless carriers have invested nearly $121 billion in their networks since the launch of 5G.
CTIA notes that at a time of incredible inflation, the mobile industry’s investments combined with increased competition in the marketplace have resulted in lower prices, “which is a welcome contrast to an economy where consumers are facing price increases for 94 percent of tracked goods nationwide.” and services were faced.”
Since 2010, the cost of unlimited data plans has fallen 43 percent, while WiFi speeds have increased 85 times over the same period.
Investment and competition have also led to new innovations such as 5G for home broadband and 5G fixed wireless. The latter is particularly useful when connecting rural areas where it is difficult to create a fiber business model due to the cost of last mile connections. CTIA notes that 5G home broadband is available in more than 40 million homes, offering home connections over high-capacity, low-latency frequencies instead of a wired connection.
The report also points out that 5G will help mitigate the effects of climate change by creating green jobs in key industries. Accenture has determined that 5G-enabled use cases should meet 20 percent of US emissions reduction targets by 2025.
5G is clearly helping to usher in a new age of connectivity in this country. CTIA’s statistics are encouraging signs that the latest wireless technology is helping to bring broadband access to more Americans than ever before. The best part about this growth is that taxpayers’ money is not being spent.
Johnny Kampis is Director of Telecom Policy at the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
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