In brief

In brief

  • Accenture Strategy created an economic model estimating the wireless industry’s contribution to the U.S. economy at a state and national level.
  • Findings show the wireless industry has a larger impact on the U.S. economy than many realize, contributing US$475 billion in GDP.
  • Modernizing rules around 5G small cells could unlock additional $100 billion in economic growth over the next three years.

Large new economic sectors in the United States rely solely on wireless connectivity. From the IoT to growing data and wireless subscribers, the wireless industry contributes $475B in GDP, supporting 4.7M jobs and generating $1T in economic output. Based on GDP, the U.S. wireless industry is larger than 87 percent of countries, putting it ahead of many economies around the world.

Wireless industry contribution to the U.S. economy

Chart showing how wireless has helped the U.S. economy: Supporting 4.7M jobs, contributing $475 in GDP and generating $1T in economic output.

While the wireless industry will drive a significant portion of the $475B GDP contribution, indirect activity from adjacent industries such as the semiconductor industry will drive the bulk of the total figure—accounting for 44 percent, or $207B. Cooperative partnerships and ecosystems will be key to overall success.

Breaking down the $475b in wireless industry GDP contribution

The pie chart shows the GDP breakdown of wireless’ $475 billion contribution split out by: Direct activity, indirect activity and induced activity.
  • DIRECT ACTIVITY –Direct activity within the wireless industry, such as sales of products and services, through carriers or telecom resellers
  • INDUCED ACTIVITY –Increased household spending on goods such as restaurants due to income earned from wireless industry or industry suppliers
  • INDIRECT ACTIVITY –Economic contribution from adjacent industries to supply the wireless industry, such as production of semiconductor content for smartphones

The future of the industry

The potential for future contribution by the wireless industry is even more significant with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G. Accenture’s research demonstrates that the most impactful IoT use cases will depend on key 5G network attributes.

IoT, which has already driven substantial economic impact through the proliferation of connected devices, is likely to be the next significant area of value generation. Of the 29 billion connected devices estimated by 2022, 18 billion are predicted to be IoT related. A joint World Economic Forum and Accenture report projects that Industrial IoT (IIoT) will add $14 trillion to global economic value by 2030.

The sheer breadth and depth of IIoT use cases, from predictive maintenance to intelligent products, is what makes this opportunity noteworthy. Wireless carriers will play a crucial role in unlocking the full potential of IoT, as they enable the connectivity of sensors, devices, data centers and people.

Three key drivers for direct wireless contributions place wireless at the center of a growing economy, with 5G looming large.

Wireless mobile device subscriptions per American

Subscribers continue to grow. The U.S. currently has 396M+ active wireless devices, a number we expect to continue to grow.

Growth of U.S. data traffic over the past two years

Data volume keeps expanding. Traffic per subscriber in North America is set to grow from the current 7GB per month per active smartphone to 22GB in 2022.

Connected devices such as fitness trackers are on the rise

The U.S. is seeing an explosion in the number of connected devices. New types of devices such as fitness trackers and smart home gadgets are helping drive the increase, with 180M+ devices currently in use.

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Why we need to modernize infrastructure guidelines

Given that 5G connectivity will require a system of wireless infrastructure significantly denser than that required by 4G, modernization of infrastructure guidelines will be key to decreasing the time required for a 5G network rollout. Recognizing that 300,000 small cells need to be deployed in the next three to four years—roughly double the number of macro towers built over the past 30 years—current approval processes pose a challenge.

The fix for spectrum availability

With exponential growth in wireless data, and increasing demand for higher throughput and bandwidth across wireless (radio) access, the availability of sufficient spectrum to meet these demands is a real concern. Additional spectrum is needed for carriers to realize the transformative benefits that 5G offers.

Modernization of infrastructure guidelines and spectrum availability are key to accelerating economic growth from the industry and could unleash an additional $100 billion in economic impact over the next three years according to our analysis.

Moving forward

America’s wireless industry is not only a significant contributor to the economy today, but it continues to advance other industries, even triggering the development of completely new, innovative sectors and business models.

The economic benefits can be realized when the private and public sectors come together to make the promise of future gains from 5G a reality.

About the Authors

Sanjay Dhar

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy

Tejas Rao

Managing Director – Cloud First Networks, Ecosystem and Partnership Lead

David Safer

Accenture Strategy

Farah Lalani

Accenture Strategy

William McCluskey

Manager – Strategy & Consulting, Communications & Media


Thomas Dyer

Manager – Accenture Strategy, Technology Strategy

Majed Al Amine

Managing Director – Accenture, Communications, Media & Technology


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