Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Report: Wireless Benefits U.S. Economy

On December 7, CTIA published a report by Compass Lexecon titled "The Importance of Licensed Spectrum and Wireless Telecommunications to the American Economy." The report spotlights the economic output and job creation enabled by wireless services between 2011 and 2020:

The substantial investments in licensed spectrum and infrastructure during the past decade have allowed the industry to deliver wireless services to hundreds of millions of consumers throughout the U.S., contributing nearly $9.5 trillion in gross output and $5.4 trillion in GDP to the American economy, and employing an annual average of more than three million people… In 2020 alone, the wireless industry contributed over $1.3 trillion in gross output, $825 billion in GDP, and nearly 4.5 million jobs to the American economy. 

These trillions in output and millions of jobs include the direct effects of the core wireless industry (mobile network operators and resellers) on the economy, as well as the secondary effects of the wireless supply chain and select downstream market segments that rely heavily upon wireless and mobile broadband services (including smartphone app developers, search engines, digital advertising agencies, mobile gaming, and social networking sites). It does not take into account the contributions made by other sectors that also depend on and use wireless services that could represent hundreds of billions in additional gross output and GDP, as well as millions of workers. Therefore, the estimates presented in this study are a baseline, or lower bound, for the contributions made by wireless- related sectors to the American economy. 

The decade's impressive economic output and job creation spurred by the wireless industry depended upon wireless network operator investment of $265 billion in infrastructure during that same period of time. Moreover, "[b]etween 2011 and 2020, spectrum auctions pertaining to wireless services have raised $155 billion in auction revenues."  

Compass Lexecon's report cites many other pro-consumer results from the strong private sector investments made in wireless networks between 2011 and 2020, including significantly expanded competing network coverage, mobile wireless download speed increases, mobile data traffic growth, and downward pricing trends. The report thus provides a reminder of the importance of maintaining a free market-oriented light-touch regulatory framework for wireless broadband services that promotes private investment and innovation. 

Acknowledging that demands for mobile wireless services is expected to increase significantly in the years ahead, the report presents a key policy takeaway for ensuring that wireless providers can meet those future demands: 

For the wireless industry to continue to provide these considerable, widespread positive effects to the American economy, it is necessary to provide mobile network operators access to dedicated, licensed spectrum. It is also important to allow potential licensees to compete to acquire the spectrum licenses, and, once acquired, to allow the licensees to determine the optimal allocation and usage of that spectrum in the economy based on economic market forces. 

The report doesn't analyze any specific bands. But as public debate continues regarding whether exclusive licensed and shared spectrum frameworks ought to be established by Congress or by the FCC for future commercial spectrum allocations, the findings contained in Compass Lexecon's report deserve careful consideration alongside facts, data, and analysis offered by parties with other viewpoints.