Wireless data traffic more than doubled in US in 2013

The total amount of data handled by wireless carriers in the U.S. more than doubled in 2013, an increase driven in large part by video traffic.

U.S. carriers saw 3.2 exabytes of data traffic run across their networks, the CTIA said in its annual report on the U.S. wireless industry. An exabyte is 10x18 bytes or, put another way, a billion gigabytes.

The figure represents a 120 percent increase from the 1.5 exabytes carried in all of 2012, the group said on Tuesday. The CTIA is the Washington, D.C, -based lobbying group that represents the industry and it conducted the survey among its members. The data refers to traffic carried over licensed spectrum.

With 336 million subscriptions in the U.S., that figure works out to an average of 801 megabytes per subscriber line per month.

A large proportion of that data was video. While the CTIA didn’t survey members on video traffic, Cisco recently said its networking data pointed to a total of 2.2 exabytes in video data being carried by mobile networks last year. That’s an average of 563 megabytes per subscriber line per month.

U.S. customers spent 218 billion minutes per month talking on their wireless devices, which works out to an average of 650 minutes per month per line; sent 153 billion text messages per month, or 457 messages per line; and 10 billion multimedia messages, or 30 per line.

On the network side, carrier networks grew slightly as the roll out of 4G services continued apace across the country. At the end of 2013, the entire U.S. wireless network consisted of 304,360 cell sites, a rise of around 2,500 on the year. The CTIA put annual capital expenditure by wireless carriers at $33.1 billion.

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