U.S. mobile consumers spent $95B on data in 2012, topping what they spent on voice

TIA report shows 'historic transition' for mobile industry.

Talk about a shift in behavior -- or maybe that should be text about a shift.

It seemed only a matter of time, but today the Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA) said that 2012 marked the first time that U.S. wireless data spending topped voice spending. Also, according to the association's 2013 ICT Market Review & Forecast report, there are more wireless subscriptions than there are adults in the country.

The "industry is squarely in the middle of an historic transition," said Grant Seiffert, president of the association that represents high-tech manufacturers and suppliers of communications technology. "Wireless had a breakthrough year in 2012. ... While wireless penetration will level off in the years ahead, infrastructure investments will continue surging in order to meet the heavy demand for mobile data."

A number of factors will fuel a boom for the industry, he said, including more spending on cloud services and cybersecurity, and the continuing rise of smartphones and tablets.

Here are some specifics of the report:

  • Consumers spent $94.8 billion on mobile data services, versus $92.4 billion on voice.
  • Wireless penetration among adults reached 102.5 percent, and the TIA predicts that carriers will add 40.3 million subscribers over the next four years, for a penetration of 111.3 percent in 2016.
  • U.S. wireline spending was $39.1 billion in 2012, compared with $27 billion for wireless infrastructure. By 2016, wireline spending is expected to climb to $44.4 billion, while wireless will reach $38.4 billion.
  • The overall telecommunications industry experienced 7 percent worldwide growth in 2012, down 3 percent from 2011. While growth actually accelerated in the U.S. (from 5.9 percent in 2011 to 6.2 percent in 2012), international markets saw a decline (11.3 percent versus 7.2 percent).
About the author

Paul Sloan is editor in chief of CNET News. Before joining CNET, he had been a San Francisco-based correspondent for Fortune magazine, an editor at large for Business 2.0 magazine, and a senior producer for CNN. When his fingers aren't on a keyboard, they're usually on a guitar. Email him here.


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