There was universal consensus that 5G wireless technology would be a game changer in closing the digital divide. The question was whether private investment would be enough to set up the necessary infrastructure. A new report shows that capital spending by wireless providers will reach a record high in 2021 as 5G has seen tremendous growth and will continue to help connect households not currently served by broadband.
CTIA’s 2022 Annual Wireless Industry Survey shows that wireless providers have invested $35 billion to grow and improve their networks, the fourth consecutive 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 experienced a quantum leap in growth since it first began in 2018, as infrastructure reforms that have eased barriers to deployment have led to 5G growing twice as fast as 4G. Since the Federal Communications Commission and state lawmakers worked to modernize key siting regulations that could stifle the technology’s growth, wireless providers have added 70,000 active cell sites. There are now nearly 420,000 operational cell sites in the United States
As CTIA notes, “More cell sites improve coverage, encourage adoption and help close the digital divide.”
It’s clear that consumers want faster mobile internet speeds as the number of connected 5G devices grew more than a whopping 500 percent this past year from 14 million to Accenture’s 85 million. About a third of Americans now have an active 5G device.
CTIA points out that the number of connections that require wireless technology will help fuel growth – everything from smartwatches to medical sensors. Such data-only devices represent about 42 percent of all wireless connections.
Wireless providers have invested nearly $121 billion in their networks since the launch of 5G.
CTIA notes that in an age of rampant inflation, the wireless industry’s investment, combined with increased market competition, has led to lower prices, “providing a welcome contrast to an economy where consumers foot the bill for 94 percent of faced the pursued goods and services throughout the country.”.
Since 2010, the cost of unlimited data plans has dropped 43 percent, while wireless speeds have increased 85-fold over the same period.
Investments and competition have also led to new innovations such as 5G for home broadband and 5G fixed wireless. The latter is particularly useful for connecting rural areas where it is difficult to make a business case for fiber optics due to the cost of last mile connections. CTIA notes that 5G home broadband is available in more than 40 million households, providing home connections over spectrum with high capacity and low latency instead of a wired connection.
The report also points out that 5G will help reduce the effects of climate change by creating green jobs in key industries. Accenture found that 5G-enabled use cases should deliver 20 percent of the United States’ emissions reduction goals by 2025.
5G is clearly helping usher in a new age of connectivity in this country. CTIA’s statistics are encouraging signs that the latest wireless technology is helping to make broadband access available to more Americans than ever before. The best part of this growth is that taxpayer dollars are not spent.
Johnny Kampis is director of telecom policy for the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.
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