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CTIA: Subscriber Growth Robust In ’06

Washington — The cellular industry may have celebrated its 23rd birthday last August, but the industry isn’t showing signs of aging.

The cellular subscriber base in 2006 expanded by 25.1 million, or the second highest number in the industry’s history, falling just short of the industry record of 25.7 million set in 2005, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association.

With last year’s gains, the subscriber base stood at an estimated 233 million people at the end of 2006.

The third strongest year for net subscriber growth occurred in 2000, when the subscriber base expanded by 23.4 million people, the association’s statistics show.

More important for carriers, total revenues grew 10.6 percent to $125.5 billion in 2006, and the data portion of their revenue grew 77 percent to $15.2 billion. Data revenues represented almost 13 percent of total carrier revenues in 2006, up from 2005’s 7.6 percent.

The number of text and multimedia messages also grew rapidly in 2006, CTIA found. More than 158 billion text messages were sent in 2006, up 95 percent over 2005. More than 2.7 billion multimedia messages were sent in 2006, up from 1.1 billion in 2005.

Subscribers talked more than 1.7 trillion minutes in 2006, up 20 percent from the previous year.

CTIA also found that the average monthly bill in December 2006 rose slightly to $50.56 from the previous year’s $49.98, but the increase didn’t boost the average bill above the nine-year high of $50.64 posted in December 2004.

CTIA based its figures on its semi-annual survey of carriers. Responses were received from carriers serving 97.2 percent of wireless subscribers. CTIA combined that data with estimates of subscriber levels for carriers who did not respond to the survey.