Wireless operators in the United States will invest between $25 billion and $53 billion in new mobile broadband networks during a four year period ending in 2016, according to new estimates from Deloitte.
The expansion of new high-speed wireless networks could add $73 billion to $151 billion to the country's gross domestic product and create between 371,000 and 771,000 new jobs.
"Investment in such a powerful form of communication contributes to the economic recovery and provides a job-creating engine for the future," said Phil Asmundson, leader of Deloitte's U.S. media and telecommunications sector, in the report.
The research firm emphasized that increased availability of mobile broadband services would benefit many U.S. industries, as well as help underserved consumers in rural areas gain access to the Internet, helping to move them into the nation's "economic mainstream."
However, the industry must be given access to more spectrum to keep pace with consumer demand, Deloitte warned.
Deloitte called the $25 billion figure a "baseline scenario," in which deployment of next-generation wireless networks occurs at a "moderate pace."
"Under these conditions, U.S. firms are vulnerable to incursions by foreign competitors capitalizing on aggressive efforts in their home markets to deploy 4G networks and develop 4G-based devices and services," the firm stated.
Deloitte said U.S. operators stand to benefit from moving more rapidly into new network technologies, "setting off a virtuous cycle of investment and market response that positions the U.S. to retain its mobile broadband leadership."
The U.S. wireless industry is lobbying the FCC and lawmakers to free up additional spectrum. The FCC has pledged to open up 500 MHz of spectrum for mobile broadband by 2020, and wants to get the first 300 MHz of the airwaves released by 2015 through repurposing government spectrum and voluntary auctions of broadcast spectrum.
The agency's efforts to sell off bandwidth used by television broadcasters has run into resistance from the National Association of Broadcasters, which has voiced concerns that the auctions will not be completely voluntary. The FCC is waiting for the House and Senate to pass legislation granting it authority to hold the auctions.