US wireless communications market to grow 9.3%, generate $158.6 bln in 2005

Total US spending on wireless communications will grow by 9.3% in 2005, achieving a total of $158.6 bln, according to Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA). The report predicts the wireless market will reach $212.5 bln by 2008, with a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2005 to 2008.

Revenues in 2004 totaled $145.1 bln, up 11.6% from 2003. The increase in 2004 marked a return to double-digit growth following a dip to mid-single digits in 2003. This uptick in wireless communications spending was driven by faster growth in handset revenue from new models, increased revenue from Wi-Fi equipment and a rebound in support services.

TIA predicts that the US wireless subscriber base (wireless telephony and paging) will continue to expand, but at single-digit rather than double-digit rates. In 2004, there were 173.7 mln wireless subscribers, up 9% from 2003, most of these – 163.1 mln – were wireless telephone subscribers. Between 1999 and 2004, the number of wireless telephony subscribers more than doubled. The principal driver was the introduction of one-rate pricing plans in 1999. Wireless became less expensive than landline for many people, thus spurring an increase in wireless subscribership. With a majority of the population already subscribing to mobile phone service, growth in the wireless universe will begin to slow and drop to single-digit increases beginning in 2005 with growth averaging 5.2% on a CAGR basis through 2008 to roughly 200 mln wireless communications subscribers.

As subscriber growth diminishes and the wireless subscriber market reaches maturity, rising prices associated with new applications and plans such as wireless Internet access, text messaging, instant messaging, ring tones, wireless games, multimedia messaging services and Wi-Fi technologies will drive the market. Spending on wireless communications services is expected to rise by 11.1% in 2005 reaching $113.1 bln, and to expand at a 10.4 CAGR reaching an estimated $151.1 bln in 2008.

The wireless phone market was buoyed by continued subscriber growth and upgrades to more sophisticated handsets. After slowing in 2001 and 2002, wireless communications handsets rose at double-digit rates in 2003 and 2004, reaching $10.1 bln and $11.0 bln respectively. Spending on wireless communications handsets will grow from an estimated $11.5 bln in 2005 to $13.8 bln in 2008, growing at a 6% compound annual rate.