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Cellular Subscriber Growth Breaks 1st-Half Record

Washington — The number of net new wireless-phone subscribers (net adds) grew to its highest level in the industry’s history, CTIA-The Wireless Association reported in its semiannual carrier survey.

First-half net subscriber additions were up for the third consecutive year following two years of steep first-half double-digit declines in 2001 and 2002.

This year’s first-half gain put the industry on course toward a record-breaking full-year gain that would exceed 2000’s full-year record of 23.4 million net adds.

During January-June, the number of net new subscribers (after churn) grew 16.3 percent to 12.5 million, compared to first-half 2004 growth of 47.2 percent to 10.75 million. The 12.5 million gain handily exceeded the previous record of 11 million set in the first half of 2000.

This year, first-half net-new subscriber growth expanded the subscriber base to 194.6 million people, or about 65 percent of the U.S. population, CTIA said. The base is up 14.9 percent from June 2004 levels.

For the June to June period, CTIA reported the largest one-year addition of new subscribers — more than 25.2 million — since the first cellular network went commercial in 1983.

CTIA’s president Steve Largent expects penetration to keep on rising, perhaps approaching the 100+ rate of other countries as Americans “choose wireless as their primary means of communication in America.”

He added, “When you look at countries in other parts of the world with penetration rates exceeding 100 percent, it’s only logical to predict that subscriber growth in the U.S. is far from over.”

In other findings, CTIA said:

·Wireless text messaging is breaking records. In June alone, more than 7.2 billion SMS messages were sent, compared to 2.8 million in June 204. June’s text messaging revenue jumped 154 percent to $1.24 billion from June 2004.

·Revenue from other data services gained sharply during the first half to $3.8 billion, up 85 percent from the year-ago period. The services include music and content downloads, game playing and Web access.

·Despite text-messaging and data-service gains, the size of the average phone bill barely gained. The average first-half phone bill was $49.52, up three cents from the year-ago period.

For its survey, CTIA received responses from wireless carriers servicing 95.8 percent of wireless-phone subscribers. The association estimated statistics for the other systems.

“While voice is still our main driver, we are seeing strong evidence that consumers are using their wireless devices for so much more than just a phone,” Largent said.