By Michelle Choi, an insider at Lease Advisors

A new report by CTIA (the wireless association formerly known as the Cellular Telephone Industries Association) illustrates the increasing trend in mobile data usage and time spent on the more than 208 million smartphones and 35 million tablets employed by American consumers. These devices represent nearly 70% of the mobile platforms responsible for consuming wireless data last year. This report, while focused on actual wireless data usage could also indicate growth with regard to the number of new cellular sites employed domestically. CTIA reports that every minute, Americans exchange 3.6 million text messages and 300,000 video and photo messages. Each month, consumers use approximately 2.5 billion voice minutes, 169 billion text messages, and 15 billion multimedia messages. That equates to over four trillion MB of mobile data use in a year, and a 26% increase in data consumption from 2013 to 2014. Could this trending increase in data usage be used to forecast growth for the tower industry in the form of additional cellular sites being erected across the nation?

“Americans enjoy the best wireless experience in the world, from the fast 4G/LTE networks that are available to more than 98% of the country to the trend-setting devices and countless apps created every day,” CTIA CEO Meredith Baker said. Wearables to track our health, viral game applications, video and music streaming during commutes, unlimited messaging and messaging apps—the ubiquitous influence of data in our everyday lives explains the numbers we see in the report. The growing capabilities and convenience of mobile gadgets render common devices like the calculator obsolete and make wrist watches more an accessory than a necessity. As the popularity of mobile devices increases, so does the cellular infrastructure needed to support this growth.

Part of this trend in wireless device usage is a consequence of the shift from fixed line devices. The percentage of American households that are “wireless only” increased from 39% to 44% in 2014, which signals a growing market penetration rate on behalf of wireless carriers. Over $166 billion has been spent on spectrum auctions, cellular sites, and cellular infrastructure development over the past five years. As a result of these growing trends, the number of cell sites has nearly doubled in the past decade from 162,986 in 2003 to more than 298,000 in 2014; a telling sign of more growth to come.

Via Inside Towers