Competition drives the U.S. wireless industry. When one objectively looks at the major market indicators, competition is the reason why we lead the world in efficiency and value for consumers. These indicators include capital expenditures and network investments; infrastructure deployments; subscribership levels; subscriber growth; number of devices manufactured for the U.S. market; growth of device capabilities; continued evolution of operating system choices; application development; consumer choice in calling or data plans and other service offerings; network coverage; pricing trends; and enhancement in services, service policies, customer care and transparency.
Earlier this month, we submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on the state of mobile wireless competition that uses data from CTIA and well-respected third party organizations that prove the U.S. wireless industry is competitive.
Thanks to the robust competition throughout the “virtuous cycle of innovation,” we highlighted a few key major market indicators that best demonstrate our industry’s growth.
- Capital expenditures and network investments—As of June 2011, U.S. wireless carriers have invested a commutative total of $322 billion to build-out and upgrade networks to compete effective on network quality.
- Subscriber growth—Competition drives consumption and demand for wireless services. In June 2011, there were 322 million active subscriber connections, an increase of approximately 22 million from June 2010. The number of 3G and 4G subscribers continues to grow as carriers compete to offer advanced network technologies. By the end of 2010, there were more than 119 million unique 3G and 4G subscribers (an increase of 19 million from 2009).
- Number and variety of devices manufactured for the U.S. market—At least 32 different companies manufacture more than 630 unique devices for the U.S. wireless market. The incredible proliferation and adoption of smartphones and wireless-enabled tablets has made the average price of smartphones drop dramatically, down to the current average price of $135.
- Application development—Competition spurs the development of new application stores, new applications and open network initiatives. As of mid-year 2010, more than 240,000 apps were available on seven operating systems from seven different storefronts. Only one year later, there were 1.2 million apps available on at least 11 operating systems from more than 27 different non-carrier storefronts.
In order to maintain this kind of robust competition, we must solve the looming spectrum crisis. Unlike most policy debates in Washington, D.C., getting more spectrum for the wireless industry has bipartisan and bicameral support. In fact, the FCC predicts that by 2014, there will be a broadband spectrum deficit close to 300 MHz. If additional spectrum is made available to meet the demand, the FCC says significant economic value will be created. As we had said repeatedly, everyone benefits when spectrum is made available.
It’s competition, not regulation, that benefits consumers. It’s the constant competition and innovation from our members that provides customers with the diverse products and services.
As we say in the filing, we recognize the expanded scope that the FCC has taken with the report, but it doesn’t preclude a finding similar to countless other reports that the core market Congress has characterized as effectively competitive.
By all relevant indices, the core mobile market appears no less vibrant. There is every basis for the Sixteenth State of Mobile Wireless Competition Report to find effective competition in the U.S. wireless market.