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U.S. consumers on average had more choices of wireless carriers in mid-2007 than they did during the year-ago period, but since 2000, their choices have declined, the latest Federal Communications Commission (FCC) report on wireless competition shows.
In its 12th annual report on wireless competition, the FCC found that counties with 59.1 percent of the U.S. population had a choice of five or more service providers, up from the 50.8 percent found in the prior year's report. A particular providers' coverage, however, might not be available throughout the entire county, the FCC noted in its methodology.
The report also found that counties with 98 percent of the U.S. population had a choice of three or more service providers, the same percentage as in the previous report, and that counties with four or more providers accounted for 93.6 percent of the population, almost even with the prior report's 93.8 percent.
Comparing the 2000 report with the latest report, however, the percentage of the population in counties with at least five, six, or seven choices has fallen(see table), while the percentage of the population in counties with at least three or four choices has grown. The number of choices grew between 2000 and 2003 but fell after that, the report shows.
The statistics exclude MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) who resell a carrier's airtime under their own brand, the FCC said.
Geographic coverage: In tracking wireless choices by census block for the first time, the FCC also found that cellular covers less square mileage in the United States than previously thought. Previously, the FCC tracked coverage on a county-by-county basis and noted that a particular providers' coverage might not be available in all areas within a county. Census-block reporting provides "significantly more accurate and granular assessment" of geographic and population coverage because there are 8 million census blocks but only 3,200 counties in the United States, the FCC said.
Using the new methodology, the FCC found in its latest report that the percentage of America's 3.6 million square miles covered by three or more carriers is only 39.8 percent, whereas under the county-by-county methodology, the percentage was 68.5 percent. A total of 75.8 percent of U.S. territory, however, is covered by at least one carrier, and 61.3 percent of U.S. square mileage is covered by two or more carriers. Another 28 percent of the U.S. land mass is federally owned and therefore thinly populated and subject to restrictions that prevent wireless coverage or make it extremely difficult to provide, the FCC said.
Nonetheless, 99.8 percent of the U.S. population lives in a census block where coverage is available from at least one carrier, with 99 percent living in areas with two or more service providers and 89.9 percent living in areas with four or more carriers. More than half the population lives in areas with five or more providers.
In rural areas, about 99.3 percent of the 60.6 million rural population has access to at least one service provider in the census blocks in which they live. The 60.6 million people account for 21 percent of the U.S. population, and they live in areas accounting for 86 percent of the U.S. land mass, the FCC noted.
Wireless broadband: The report also found wide coverage in 2006 and 2007 of mobile broadband technologies such as CDMA EV-DO and W-CDMA/HSDPA, which the FCC said typically allows for download speeds of 400kbps to 800kbps. Specifically, the FCC said:
EV-DO and Rev. A networks cover 82 percent of the U.S. population, based on census blocks, and WCDMA/HSDPA networks cover 43 percent;
about 82 percent of the U.S. population lives in census blocks with at least one mobile broadband provider; and
the two nationwide CDMA operators are upgrading their EV-DO networks with EV-DO Rev. A to increase average download speeds to 600kbps to 1.4 Mbps and boost average uplink speeds to 350kbps to 800 kbps.
|Total number of providers in a county||12th report||11th report||10th report||9th report||8th report||7th report||6th report||5th report|
|3 or more||98.0%||98.0%||96.9%||96.8%||94.7%||94.1%||90.8%||87.8%|
|4 or more||93.6%||93.8%||93.2%||93.0%||89.3%||88.7%||84.4%||79.8%|
|5 or more||59.1%||50.8%||87.3%||87.5%||82.6%||80.4%||75.1%||68.5%|
|6 or more||20.0%||17.6%||41.3%||75.8%||71.1%||53.1%||46.7%||34.6%|
|7 or more||2.5%||2.4%||12.6%||29.5%||25.4%||21.2%||11.9%||4.4%|
|Total number of providers in a census block||Number of blocks||POPs contained in those blocks*||% of total U.S. POPs||Square miles contained in those blocks||% of total U.S. square miles|
|1 or More||8,126,003||284,743,328||99.8%||2,878,602||75.8%|
|2 or More||7,745,336||282,506,517||99.0%||2,327,573||61.3%|
|3 or More||6,732,406||272,480,505||95.5%||1,514,964||39.9%|
|4 or More||5,630,876||256,537,904||89.9%||931,285||24.5%|
|5 or More||3,579,328||162,065,639||56.8%||503,717||13.3%|
|6 or More||1,372,438||62,273,212||21.8%||176,124||4.6%|
|7 or More||233,959||10,206,476||3.6%||29,906||0.8%|
|*Based on Census 2000|
Source: Federal Communications Commission estimates. © TWICE 2008
|Total number of providers in a census block||Number of counties||POPs contained in those counties||% of total U.S. POPs||Square miles contained in those counties||% of total U.S. square miles|
|3 or More||2677||279,681,886||98.0%||2,470,221||68.5%|
|4 or More||2082||267,037,332||93.6%||1,799,560||49.9%|
|5 or More||1228||168,495,386||59.1%||970,078||26.9%|
|6 or More||443||56,978,626||20.0%||311,350||8.6%|
|7 or More||67||7,063,895||2.5%||41,111||1.1%|
|POPs are from the 2000 Census, and the square miles include the United States and Puerto Rico.|
Source: Federal Communications Commission estimates based on publicly available information. © TWICE 2008
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