This Year’s Wireless Convention

Last week the CTIA, the international industry association for the wireless telecommunications industry, held its annual convention in New Orleans. Representatives from wireless carriers, suppliers, manufacturers, consultants, government agencies, the press and friends of the industry numbered over 40,000 in attendance at the convention this year. I couldn’t help but to think that the wireless industry remains one of the bright spots in our economy. In a year marked by a stagnant economy with high unemployment and low GDP growth, the wireless industry continues to demonstrate remarkable resiliency.

The convention itself was marked by an active exhibit floor displaying products and services ranging from the usual industry equipment like engineering tools and cell tower gear to fascinating new offerings covering things such as home security, healthcare, public safety and education. There were displays featuring machine-to-machine (M2M) and mobile commerce services including applications to do your banking over cell phones and tablets. And, of course, there were plenty of applications providers with the latest and greatest games and gadgets.

Here are a few fun facts I picked up last week:

  • The wireless “penetration” rate in the U.S. now stands at 104.6% or, simply said, the number of active wireless phones, tablets and other connected wireless devices divided by the total U.S. population equals more than the total population of our country; That means many people now have more than one wireless device. (Five years ago the penetration rate in the U.S. was 76.6%.)
  • The number of households in the U.S. with only wireless devices — without landline or conventional telephone services – is now 31.6% of the total households in the U.S. (Up from 10.5% five years ago.)
  • The number of text messages sent monthly in 2011 averaged 193.1 billion. A total of 2.3 trillion text messages were sent last year in the U.S. (Ironically, you may remember reading in my book, Managers Can You Hear Me Now? when, as CEO of Verizon Wireless, I first heard about text messaging I was convinced no one would ever want to send text messages!)
  • The wireless industry in the United States has annualized revenues of over $169.8 billion (Up from $125.5 billion five years ago.)
  • The GSM Association (GSMA), an association of mobile operators, estimates the worldwide wireless industry employs more than 8 million people.

In 1980 Bell Labs, which invented cellular technology, predicted only 900,000 customers in the United States would own cell phones by the turn of the century. The actual number of customers in the year 2000 was 109 million.

The wireless industry has experienced remarkable growth and will continue to do so as long as companies within the industry continue to create new products, services and applications which their customers value.

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