This holiday season, mobile is stealing the show. For the first time, a majority of online shopping visits in the United States now take place on wireless devices. The seemingly endless array of handsets, tablets, wearables, and connected “things” lining store shelves and the barrage of holiday ads from wireless rivals make clear that mobile is a gift that keeps on giving to consumers and our economy.
From service providers and devices to operating systems and monthly plans, today’s mobile sector is defined by competition and consumer choice. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the fact that wireless carriers invested more than $32 billion in U.S. mobile networks last year alone, all to keep pace with consumers and stay competitive with rival services in this hotly contested space.
Today, 97 percent of U.S. consumers have a choice of at least three wireless carriers. More than 99 percent of Americans have access to state-of-the-art LTE service, which some 40 providers offer in the U.S. Americans also can select from more than 790 handsets and devices produced by more than 50 manufacturers.
The emphasis on massive, ongoing network investment among market rivals is driven by the ferocious appetite of American consumers, who today use nearly 340 billion MB of wireless data per month— 20 times more than just five years ago. A full 97 percent of households now report having a mobile phone, with the average U.S. household owning 5.2 connected mobile devices. No surprise that more than 40 percent of U.S. households are wireless only. In a race to keep pace with this skyrocketing demand, industry investment in cutting-edge networks will spur 4G connections to grow 3-fold from 2014 to 2019 in the U.S.
Against this heady backdrop, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to soon release its 18th annual wireless competition report. If anything like recent years, the FCC will once again greet its own report as if it were Dickens’ ghost of Christmas past—claiming we live in a grim, choiceless world despite ample evidence to the contrary presented in the report’s own data. While wireless consumers and innovators focus on the future, the FCC instead prefers to avert its eyes from what millions of Americans see every day in every mall and main street in our land: the white-hot competitive wireless sector that is moving our economy and quality of life forward.
Our wireless world looks vastly different than it did just a year ago. Competitive pressures from rivals old and new (see: Google Fi) has spurred incredible consumer benefits, most recently the rise of data rollover plans as mobile service providers seek new ways to court subscribers and differentiate their services. In parallel, a whole new race to connect the Internet of Things has begun among a range of U.S. wireless companies of various shapes and sizes.
In such a fluid and rapidly evolving space, it is hard to fathom how the FCC—particularly this FCC that has prided itself on being “data driven”—can continue to turn a blind eye to pervasive wireless competition and a cold shoulder to common sense. Starting from such a dim and inaccurate premise could lead to bad policy decisions that result in negative consequences for consumers and our economy in terms of prices, innovation choices, network quality and more.
America’s mobile success story is no holiday miracle. From how we lead our connected lives to what’s topping our holiday gift lists, our innovative, vibrant and competitive U.S. wireless sector is on full display for all the world to see. Rather than deny its existence, and say yet another predictable and Scrooge-like “Bah Humbug” to the dynamic wireless competition in our land, the FCC should celebrate this mobile present and future that consumers and our economy reap the benefits of each and every day.