CTIA Survey Finds 21% Gain In '99 Net New Subscribers

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The number of net new wireless-phone subscribers grew last year at a double-digit rate for the second consecutive year, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) announced.

The association's semi-annual carrier survey found that the number of net new cellular, PCS, and ESMR subscribers grew 21% in 1999 to 16.8 million following 1998's 25% gain to 13.9 million. Single-digit gains in 1996 and 1997 interrupted the annual double-digit gains enjoyed by the industry since its commercial inception in 1984.

Last year's gains expanded the year-end subscriber base to almost 86.1 million users, or more than 31% of the total U.S. population, the association said.

As of April 20, 2000, the CTIA estimates a subscriber base of 90.7 million.

From its survey, the CTIA also found that:

  • the number of digital-service subscribers grew 110% to 38.5 million, accounting for 47.5% of the total subscriber base.
  • average monthly phone bills rose for the first time since 1988, but only by 4.6% to $41.24, even though users increased their average usage by 38.5% to 180 minutes per month.

Other data uncovered by the CTIA indicate why carriers have been scaling back per-activation compensation to retailers. In 1999, carrier revenues hit a record $40 billion, but more than a fourth of that revenue [$10.7 billion] was spent on capital investment.

For the survey, CTIA received responses from 3,216 of the 3,518 systems operating in the U.S. The association estimated statistics for the other systems.

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