Wireless networking infrastructure is more than a way to connect thousands of mobile, BYOD-using colleagues to the home office: it could also prove to be the salvation of a sluggish U.S. economy. A new study published by PCIA, the Wireless infrastructure Association, predicts that carriers and end-user companies will pour $1.2 trillion into efforts to expand their wireless infrastructure networks, creating 1.2 million jobs in the process. PCIA commissioned the study, which was conducted by economic research firm Information Age Economics (IAE), to estimate the size of wireless infrastructure investments during the next five years and gauge the economic impact. The resulting numbers are surprisingly high, largely because, as an industry, wireless infrastructure "punches well above its weight," according to the report. Investments in wireless networks have a higher impact on the economy than many other tech investments. During the next five years, U.S. companies will invest between $34 billion and $36 billion per year in wireless infrastructures, the report predicted. Those investments will drive related or follow-on work worth between $863 billion and $1.2 trillion: 606 percent more than the total investment in wireless. That growth will increase GDP by 2.2 percent by 2017, deliver between $85 billion and $87 billino in direct economic growth driven by wireless. It will also create more than 28,000 jobs during 2017 and more than 122,000 jobs in the wireless infrastructure industry itself during the next five years, according to the report. The impact-catalyst effect – growth in other markets driven by investments in a single market – will increase GDP by as much as 1.69 percent by 2017, generating $268 billion that year, compared to $54 billion in 2013. That growth will expand the job market by 253,120 new jobs each year. "These indirect network benefits, offering improved wireless broadband access and higher data speeds, will lead to a plethora of new business formation, while existing businesses and organizations will reap sizable gains in efficiency," according to the report. Unlike wired networks, which are limited in scope to existing facilities and populations of employees, wireless expands the size of the area in which networked work and leisure can take place, also expanding the number of people connected at any given time. The resulting impact mirrors that of other disruptive technologies. (The report's lead author is IAE founder Alan Pearce, a Ph.D. economist who helped found and give direction to the Federal Communications Commission during the 1970s and later headed the commission.) "The simple truth is that a 2.2 percent increase in GDP and 1.2 million new jobs will not come about by magic," Adelstein is quoted as saying in a statement from PCIA. "They will only occur if, as a nation, we recognize the fundamental importance of having a… wireless broadband network that meets the demands of the 21st century economy."   Image: Shutterstock.com/Veniamin Kraskov