Wireless Sub Growth Falls For Year, Second Half

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The wireless industry suffered its first-ever full-year decline in net new subscriber growth in 2001, but the average phone bill rose for the third consecutive year, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) said.

In releasing the results of its latest semiannual survey of carriers, CTIA found that the number of net new subscribers (excluding churned subscribers) fell in 2001 by 19.4 percent to 18.9 million compared to 2000's revised gain of 39.2 percent. The decline accelerated in the second half, when net new subscriber growth fell by 23.3 percent to 9.98 million following a first-half decline of 18.8 percent to 8.92 million.

For the full year, the total subscriber base nonetheless expanded to 128.4 million, up 17.3 percent from year-end 2000's 109.5 million.

The CTIA also found that:

  • the number of minutes spent talking on wireless phones rose an astounding 76 percent in one year to 456 billion billable minutes, from 258.9 billion in 2000.
  • the percentage of digital subscribers rose to 85 percent of all subscribers at the end of 2001, up from 70 percent at the end of 2000.
  • carriers spent about 19 percent less on capital expenditures in 2001 than they did in 2000, but the number of new cell sites grew slightly. Total capital expenditures decreased to $15.5 billion in 2001 from 2000's $18.4 billion, which was up substantially from 1999's $10.7 billion. The number of new cell sites grew to 23,252 in 2001 compared to 22,590 in 2000. The total number of cell sites stood at 127,540 at the end of the year.

For its semiannual survey, CTIA received responses from about 2,100 of the 2,440 cellular, PCS, and ESMR systems operating in the United States. The association estimated subscriber statistics for the other systems.

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