Americans’ Wireless Data Usage Continues to Skyrocket

CTIA annual survey shows a record 13.7 trillion MBs of wireless data used in 2016 - a 35 times increase since the beginning of the decade

May 9, 2017

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2017 – CTIA® today released its Annual Wireless Industry Survey, which found Americans used a record 13.72 trillion megabytes (MBs) of mobile data in 2016, an increase of over 4 trillion MBs over 2015 and 35 times the volume of traffic in 2010.

The amount of data traffic sent over wireless networks in 2016 -13.72 trillion MBs - is the equivalent of 1.58 million years of streaming HD videos.

“Americans are using more wireless data than ever. As wireless becomes central to our lives and the U.S. economy, it’s no surprise that Americans’ mobile data usage continues to skyrocket,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, President and CEO, CTIA.  “This continued growth underscores the need to free up more spectrum and modernize infrastructure processes at all levels of government to make way for next-generation 5G networks - and hundreds of billions of industry investment.”

Some other key findings from this year’s survey:

Data-intensive mobile devices continue to rise

Heavy traffic-generating devices, smartphones and wireless-enabled tablets and laptops, now total 309.8 million of the 395.9 million devices on carrier networks – a 238% increase since 2010.

There are more wireless devices than Americans

With 395.9 million total active devices in the U.S., adoption is now equal to 120.6% of the U.S. population, or more than 1.2 wireless devices per American. 

Industry committed to building world-leading networks

A record 308,334 cells sites were in operation in 2016, representing a 57% growth over the last decade, thanks to over $26 billion invested in 2016 alone.


Key Mobile Trends in the United States




Subscriber Connections



Up 4.8%




Up 14.7%




Up 16.7%

Data Traffic



Up 42.2%

SMS Traffic



Down 12.1%

MMS Traffic



Up 27.2%

Wireless Penetration



Up 4.2%




CTIA® ( represents the U.S. wireless communications industry and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem that enable Americans to lead a 21st century connected life. The association’s members include wireless carriers, device manufacturers, suppliers as well as apps and content companies. CTIA vigorously advocates at all levels of government for policies that foster continued wireless innovation and investment. The association also coordinates the industry’s voluntary best practices, hosts educational events that promote the wireless industry and co-produces the industry’s leading wireless tradeshow. CTIA was founded in 1984 and is based in Washington, D.C. Follow CTIA on Twitter (@CTIA)and Facebook (@CTIAthewirelessassoc).