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Net New Subscriber Growth Falls For Second Consecutive Year: CTIA

The number of net new wireless subscribers fell in 2002 for the second consecutive year, but the total subscriber base hit a record level, and the average phone bill grew for the fourth consecutive year, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) said.

Because of significant market-penetration gains in previous years, the number of net new subscribers (after churn) fell 23.3 percent for the full year to 12.4 million and for the second half by 37.8 percent to 6.2 million, according to the findings in the association’s latest semiannual survey of carriers.

Nonetheless, the cumulative subscriber base edged up in calendar 2002 by 9.7 percent to 140.8 million subscribers.

In 2001, the industry suffered its first full-year and second-half declines in the number of net new subscribers.

The CTIA also found the following:

  • The average phone bill rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2002 to $48.40. Phone bills had fallen every year from 1988 through 1998, when the average phone bill dipped to a historic low of $39.43.
  • The percentage of digital subscribers rose to almost 89 percent of all subscribers at the end of 2002, up from 70 percent at the end of 2000.
  • Carriers increased their capital spending in 2002 by 42 percent to $21.9 billion after a 16 percent dip in 2001 to $15.4 billion. The dollars in large part reflect the installation of 2.5G and 3G technologies and new cell sites.
  • In 2002, carriers built 11,978 new sites, down from 2001’s 23,252. The total number of sites at the end of the year was 139,339, up from the year-ago 127,540.

CTIA received responses from about 2,481 of the 2,846 cellular, PCS and ESMR systems operating in the United States. The association estimated subscriber statistics for the other systems.

U.S. Wireless-Phone Industry Gains Full Year