CTIA on Friday released a survey that confirms U.S. consumers' growing demand for data. According to CTIA, the annual U.S. wireless data traffic grew 123 percent – from 388 billion megabytes in 2010 to 866.7 billion megabytes in 2011.

The survey also found a 43 percent increase in the number of active smartphones and wireless-enabled PDAs in 2011. U.S. consumers were toting 111.5 million smart wireless devices in 2011, compared with 78.2 million in 2010.

Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA, said the survey shows the growing popularity and importance of wireless devices in Americans' lives while stressing there's more work to be done. 

"As the president, bipartisan members of Congress, FCC chairman and commissioners, and other policymakers have repeatedly advocated, the U.S. wireless industry must have access to more spectrum so we can continue to improve our nation's economy and meet our consumers' demands," Largent wrote.

So how are carriers dealing with the skyrocketing demand for data? They're investing in their networks, of course. CTIA estimates that in 2011, operators reported $25.3 billion in capital expenditures, which was up 2 percent from 2010.

Since 2001, wireless providers invested $246 billion in capital expenditures so they can meet consumers' demands for wireless access anytime and anywhere. This number does not include the billions that wireless companies paid the U.S. government to license spectrum.

The association also credits the 2009 FCC shot clock ruling that required local governments to make decisions on tower siting proposals within specific timeframes.
As a result, last year saw the largest annual increase of operational cell sites, with 283,385 at year-end, which was 30,299 more than 2010.