The first wireless call was made in 1983, and the world’s first commercial handheld cellular phone weighed 28 ounces, had one hour of talk time and eight hours of standby power. Ten years later, the Clinton Administration made a conscious decision for a light regulatory touch toward the young wireless industry, which played a key role in it becoming today’s world leader.
Also vital to today’s revolutionary wireless industry is licensed spectrum, which is what fuels the “virtuous cycle” of innovation. As long as there is licensed spectrum available for commercial use, networks are upgraded. Therefore devices are improved to take advantage of the new capabilities and apps and content developers create new offerings to take advantage of the improved networks and devices.
- Networks : Since U.S. wireless providers invest more than their counterparts in any other nation, the U.S. leads in high-speed LTE deployment and subscribership. In 2012, the average mobile data connection speed for North America was 2.6 Mbps, the fastest in the world, nearly twice that available in Western Europe, and over five times the global average. Given the current heavy investment by U.S. providers in high-speed network build-out, that gap is projected to increase to 14.4 Mbps in North America, versus 7 Mbps in Western Europe, by 2017.
- Devices : There are more than 790 unique devices, not including wearables, offered in the U.S. from more than 50 different device manufacturers.
- Apps/content and operating systems : In 2012, there were more than 20 independent non-carrier mobile app stores, offering more than 3.5 million apps for 14 different operating systems. As of mid-year 2010, there were more than 240,000 apps available on seven operating systems from seven different app stores.
It’s clear Americans enjoy and benefit from all that wireless offers.
Yet the U.S. wireless industry continues to create and disrupt its own products and services, such as creating the “app” economy. The iTunes and Android Play stores opened in 2008. Fast forward to April, 2012, when the app economy had created more than 519,000 jobs across the U.S. The economic impact for only the top 10 app economy job states is almost $19 billion. The app economy is still in its infancy, but it’s clearly an important driver for our economy.
Wireless technology is also improving users’ experiences in other industries too, such as health care, commerce, education, transportation and utilities. To continue this transformative trend, wireless companies need a flexible regulatory structure, reasonable intellectual property protection and licensed spectrum to create networks that meet the demands of consumers and industries adopting new wireless technologies.
Last Updated: November 2013