Operator Investment in 4G Networks Driving Huge Data Growth Across Region with High Smartphone Usage; Mobile Industry Contributing Significantly to Regional Economy

Atlanta: North America is leading in the adoption of new mobile technologies such as 4G networks, the Internet of Things (IoT) and digital commerce, as well as innovations in operating systems and apps, according to a new GSMA study published today at the GSMA Mobile 360 Series – North America conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The report, ‘The Mobile Economy – North America 2015’, highlights that the region has been an early adopter of 4G networks, which are driving considerable growth in mobile data traffic. 4G is forecast to account for more than 80 per cent of total connections by 20201. North America is home to more than 250 million unique subscribers, equivalent to a unique subscriber penetration rate of 70 per cent and 360 million mobile connections (excluding M2M), with three-quarters of connections being smartphones.2

“The North American mobile industry has been the strongest performing of any developed region globally for some time, characterised by substantial subscriber growth, the early adoption of new technologies, high levels of mobile usage and strong revenue trends,” said Michael O’Hara, Chief Marketing Officer, GSMA. “The region continues to lead innovation in a number of areas in the mobile ecosystem, including hardware, access technologies, operating systems and new apps and services that are scaling rapidly and changing how individuals live and work.”

Increasing Data Usage Driven by 4G Adoption
North America’s mobile operators have invested heavily in 4G networks, resulting in rapid deployment and high uptake with 98 per cent population coverage in the United States and 92 per cent coverage in Canada. Operators in both markets are already in the process of launching LTE-A (Advanced), which offers even faster speeds for users in addition to voice over LTE (VoLTE) services. Mobile data is expected to grow at a 42 per cent CAGR through 2019 to nearly 11 GB per user per month, compared to a global average of 4 GB3, with usage driven heavily by content from third-party sites and apps, particularly video.

Delivering Economic Growth, Employment and Public Funding
The North American mobile industry contributed approximately US$670 billion to the economy, equivalent to 3.5 per cent of the region’s GDP in 2014, a figure that is expected to increase to US$750 billion by 20204. Across the region, the mobile industry employed more than 2.2 million people (directly and indirectly) in 2014 and the ecosystem contributed US$75 billion in public sector funding, excluding the impact of regulatory and spectrum fees. Driven by the rapid rollout of 4G networks, mobile operators in the region have invested nearly US$35 billion per year in network infrastructure development over recent years.

Operating Systems and Applications
North America is seen as a dominant player in the development of innovative services in mobile such as mobile devices and apps, although there are developments in Asian markets. Operating systems originating in North America also continue to dominate the global smartphone market, accounting for around 95 per cent of global sales in 2014.

The United States is home to the world’s largest app market in terms of revenue and has seen a number of new apps and services scale rapidly both domestically and internationally. These include services based around the new ‘sharing economy’, such as Uber and Airbnb, which have been funded and supported by a highly developed venture capital community predominantly based in Silicon Valley.

The Internet of Things and Digital Commerce
The North American region has also embraced the IoT particularly in the connected car, mobile health and wearable device segments, with mobile playing a crucial role. According to GSMA Intelligence there were 54 million M2M connections in Q3 2015 across the region and although still a nascent market, the proportion of M2M connections as a percentage of total connections in North America is higher than in any other region of the world5. Brands such as Google’s Nest and Samsung’s Smart Things have created an environment where consumers increasingly expect the seamless integration of a growing number of connected devices. The digital commerce market is also becoming more mobile-centric in North America, with an increasing number of banks, card issuers and retailers in the region supporting mobile payments.

“The region’s rapidly evolving mobile landscape has benefitted from a high level of operator investment and a vibrant venture capital community that has resulted in numerous innovations that many of us take for granted today,” added O’Hara. “Looking ahead, continued collaboration between North American operators and players across the broader mobile ecosystem will be essential in enabling the market to realise its full potential.”

To access the full report and related infographics please visit:


Note to Editors:

14G already accounts for just over half of the connection base in the US, while Canada is expected to breach the 50% level in early 2016. By the end of the decade, 84% of connections in North America are forecast to be on 4G networks.
2The US is by far the largest market with 232 million unique mobile subscribers, a penetration rate of about 72%. In Canada the rate is still much lower at 56%, with a total of 20 million unique subscribers.
3Cisco forecasts that mobile data usage will grow at a 42% CAGR in North America through to 2019, reaching nearly 11 GB per user per month. This compares to a global average growth rate of 24% and a 2019 usage level of 4 GB.
4This total impact includes a direct economic contribution of mobile operators and the rest of the mobile ecosystem of $217 billion (1.1% of GDP), an indirect impact on the rest of the economy of $130 billion (0.7% of GDP), and a productivity impact of $324 billion (1.7% of GDP) brought about by the use of mobile technology by businesses and workers in the region.
5Cellular M2M: 12.8% of connections in North America (Q3 2015), global average is 3.9%, the next highest region is Europe at 8.2%

About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai and the Mobile 360 Series conferences.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

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