When businesses, consumer advocates, and government reports all say that the use of mobile data is skyrocketing, they aren’t kidding. An annual survey of the wireless industry shows that we are using more mobile everything, all the time, everywhere — and that the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
The CTIA — the big trade and lobbying group representing all the mobile companies — conducts an annual survey looking at data use and wireless penetration in the U.S. The 2015 report is now out, and it’s a doozy.
For starters, “wireless penetration” — the number of active mobile devices as compared to the U.S. population — is at nearly 116%. That means, yes, there are about 1.15 wireless devices per person in use. And in fact that meshes with their tally of active subscriptions, which comes in at about 378 million. (The U.S. population is currently estimated at roughly 323 million.)
All those phones and tablets suck up a lot of data. We’re collectively using 9.65 trillion MB per year of mobile data (or 9.65 billion GB, which is the unit most of us are used to seeing on our bills). Divide that by the population again and we’re looking at a little shy of 30 GB per person per year, ballpark.
Here’s where it starts to get nuts, though: the survey also compares against historical data, going back to 2005. That means we’ve got ten years’ worth of change on the record, and it is rapid.
Of course, in 2005 they actually didn’t have mobile data to track, in any meaningful way; the first iPhone, which took the idea of robust wireless activity mainstream, didn’t even launch until 2007. Five years ago, in 2010, we were collectively using about 388 billion MB of data per year — about a quarter of what we use now.