Wireless Industry Invested $30 Billion in the Network in 2020

The wireless industry invested more money — $30 billion – in U.S. wireless networks in 2020, the highest amount in five years, according to new research from CTIA—The Wireless Association.  The 2020 investment also marked the third straight year of increased capital expenditures as the industry continued to invest in 5G capabilities and infrastructure.

CTIA said that while some of the investments won’t provide returns for some time, others have already provided benefits for consumers and businesses alike: Mobile speeds jumped by half during the 12 months covered by the report. Additionally, more than 300 million people can now receive 5G speeds, though most still lack 5G-capable devices.

Among CTIA’s other findings:

  • Wireless providers have invested nearly $140 billion over the last five years, pushing the total capital investment over the life of the industry to more than $601 billion in addition to the $200 billion paid to the government for wireless spectrum
  • Mobile wireless data in the U.S. in 2020 was more than 42 trillion megabytes, a 208% jump from 2016.
  • Operational cell sites have increased more than 35% over the last five years.
  • Total carrier messaging traffic (SMS + MMS) reached 2.2 trillion in 2020, representing an increase of more than 119 billion since 2019.
  • Data-only devices like smartwatches, hotspots and medical sensors now represent 41% of all estimated devices.

“These numbers show that while we were social distancing last year, U.S. wireless providers were busy both ensuring that wireless networks handled skyrocketing demand and constructing 5G networks, the foundation for our country’s post-pandemic recovery,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement.



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