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Mobile users in US ate up 4.1 trillion megabytes of data in 2014

A surge in data usage came mostly from smartphones and tablets, which accounted for 68 percent of all mobile devices used on wireless networks, according to an industry trade group.

Americans love their mobile devices enough that 44 percent of households are now "wireless only." Sarah Tew/CNET

Mobile users in the US consumed 26 percent more mobile data last year than they did in 2013, according to a new report.

Scoping out the mobile data landscape for 2014, the mobile industry trade group CTIA found that smartphones and tablet owners were responsible for most of the surge, resulting in total mobile data use in the US of 4.1 trillion megabytes. Together, the more than 208 million smartphones and 35.4 million tablets in the country accounted for 68 percent of all the mobile devices that chewed up wireless data last year.

The report shines a light on the growing use of mobile data to do everything from storing photos and other content online to watching Netflix and YouTube videos to staying in touch with people via Facebook, instant messaging and email. It's also an indicator of how much time people now spend on their mobile devices. As such, the wireless industry in the US is under increasing pressure to create more network bandwidth and equipment to keep up with the mobile data needs of its customers.

"Americans enjoy the best wireless experience in the world, from the fast 4G/LTE networks that are available to more than 98 percent of the country to the trend-setting devices and countless apps created every day," CTIA CEO Meredith Baker said Wednesday in a statement.

The CTIA's data found that for every minute, US consumers use 7.7 million megabytes of data, exchange 3.6 million text messages and share almost 300,000 videos and photos. On a monthly basis, US consumers chew up 338.4 billion megabytes in data usage, including 204.6 billion voice minutes, 169.3 billion text messages and 15.4 billion multimedia messages.

The percentage of "wireless-only" households rose to 44 percent of the country last year, up from 39 percent in 2013. The country is home to more than 355 million total wireless devices, more than the 321 million people who live in the US, creating a wireless penetration rate of 110 percent, according to the report.

The CTIA, a trade group comprised of mobile industry companies including carriers, suppliers and manufacturers, said its report is based on a survey of both member and non-member wireless service providers.