Wireless data use more than doubled in 2015, industry survey says

Wireless data use more than doubled in 2015, industry survey says
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Americans used more than twice the amount of wireless data in 2015 than they did in 2014, according to an annual survey from a Washington mobile industry trade group.

The nation used 9.65 trillion megabytes of data last year, a huge increase from the 4.06 trillion used in 2014. Monthly data usage increased to 804.2 billion megabytes from 338.4 billion.

The significant jump was charted in a survey produced by CTIA – The Wireless Association, the trade group that represents wireless carriers.

The quick increase in mobile data usage has had a major effect on policy debates in Washington.

For one thing, wireless industry advocates say it shows the desperate need to increase the supply of wireless spectrum — the frequencies that carry signals to and from mobile devices — available to the industry.

“Our record growth also highlights the continued need for a national focus on making more spectrum available to the mobile industry,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, CTIA’s president, in a statement on Monday.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently in the process of buying more spectrum. It’s an unprecedented method that supporters say stands to put more high-value spectrum in the hands of wireless carriers.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenators share their fascination with sharks at hearing Helsinki summit becomes new flashpoint for GOP anger Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash MORE (R-S.D.) is also the author of a bill meant to encourage the federal government to make more spectrum available. The bill has passed out of committee but has yet to make it to the full chamber, and lawmakers in the House have shown little interest in advancing parallel measures.

The growth in mobile data use has also caused wireless providers to increase experiments with the practice known as “zero rating,” where data use for a certain activity will be free of charge. T-Mobile, for instance, doesn’t count data used by certain video services against the caps on its customers’ plans. Verizon and AT&T have let advertisers “sponsor” data use for certain activities.

That has drawn the attention of regulators. The FCC wrote to several companies in December to ask about their practices.