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Wireless Still Active Despite Maturity: CTIA Stats

Washington — The number of net new wireless-phone subscribers slipped 11.1 percent in 2007 to 22.4 million, but the annual gain was the fourth highest in the industry’s history, and it boosted the subscriber base to 255.4 million, or 84 percent of the total U.S. population, according to statistics released by CTIA-The Wireless Association.

The 2006 gain in net new subscribers was 25.1 million, the second highest on record following 2005’s record-breaking 25.8 million gain (see table). The third-strongest year for net subscriber growth occurred in 2000, when the subscriber base expanded by 23.4 million people.

More important for carriers, total revenue rose 10.7 percent in 2007 to $138.9 billion, following 2006 growth of 10.6 percent to $125.5 billion. The growth came despite a drop in the average monthly phone bill in December 2007 to $49.79 from $50.56 in December 2006. The average December bill grew year-over-year from December 1998 to December 2004 before slipping in 2006 and rising again in December 2006 to a nine-year high of $50.64.

Though phone bills fell in 2007, sales of data services rose to account for a larger percentage of carrier revenues, CTIA found. Wireless-data revenues rose 53 percent to $23 billion, or 17 percent of total carrier revenues. Data’s percentage of revenue was 13 percent in 2006 and 7.6 percent in 2005.

Minutes of wireless use, combining voice and data, also soared, rising 17 percent to more than 2 trillion minutes in 2007, CTIA said. In 2006, subscribers talked more than 1.7 trillion minutes, up 20 percent from the previous year.

CTIA based its figures on its semiannual survey of carriers. For its second-half 2007 survey, CTIA received responses from carriers serving 96.2 percent of wireless subscribers. CTIA combined that data with estimates of non-responding carriers’ subscriber levels.