Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – With the advent of 4G wireless mobile broadband at hand, a key question is: Will consumers and businesses want access to faster speeds?

If the past is a predictor of the future, the answer is a resounding yes. LTW readers and executives from around the Triangle are gathering in Durham today for our Executive Exchange event focusing on

Here are some statistics and information that support the view that 4G – with the Triangle serving as one of the first test-bed markets – is the next wave of communications. (And AT&T with the iPhone are not even 4G ready yet, although the big carrier is improving its network capacity and speed.)

A key reason for demand is this: According to the trade association CTIA, 99 percent of Americans now live in counties where next-generation wireless services are available.

The number of users is exploding as speed and reliability increase.

The amount of usage – from data to voice – is consistently setting new records.

And service providers are driving improvements as well as product offerings. For example, CTIA notes that 94 percent of Americans reside in counties where there are four or more carriers.

Off the charts growth

First, growth:

In the U.S., 22.7 percent of households are wireless only telephone service users, up from 8.4 percent just four years ago.

Look at the raw growth numbers and market penetration, according to CTIA:

• Dec. 1995: 33.8 million subscribers – 13%

• Dec. 2000: 109.5 million subscribers – 38%

• Dec. 2005: 207.9 million subscribers – 69%

• Dec. 2009: 285.6 million subscribers – 91%

Chit-chat and text …

Next, minutes on the mobile device:

• Minutes of use, 1995: 37.8 billion

• Minutes of use, 2000: 258.8 billion

• Minutes of use, 2005: 1.5 trillion

• Minutes of use, 2009: 2.3 trillion

Texting dall day, all night …

Next, the texting rage:

• Monthly SMS messages, 2000: 14.4 million

• Monthly SMS messages, 2005:
9.8 billion

• Monthly SMS messages, 2009: 152.7 billion

Annualized, that’s 1.56 trillion.

The new forest

And how about the exploding numbers of cell towers – the new American forest:

• 1995: 22,663

• 2000: 104,288

• 2005: 183,689

• 2009: 247,081

Speed, speed, speed

Then there’s the raw driver: Speed, as reported by Wired magazine:

• 3G technology max: 2 Mbps (Reality check: 500 kbps to 1.5 Mbps)

• 4G WiMax (used by Sprint and Time Warner Cable), up to 6 Mbps download,
up to 1 Mbps upload (Reality check: Some 3Mpbs)

• 4G LTE (used by Verizon), up to 100 Mpbs download,
up to 50 Mbps upload (Reality check: 5 to 12 Mbps download, upload 2-5 Mbps)

Speed, competition, reliability – 4G is here. Is your business ready to get on the new wireless information highway?

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