Mobile phone operators will make more revenue from data use than voice calls by 2018, according to a new report from mobile operator body GSMA.
The report comes as Mobile World Congress (MWC), The GSMA's annual mobile device convention, takes place in Barcelona this week.
Data revenues are expected to overtake revenues from voice calls in both developed and emerging markets by 2018 as smartphones and tablets, especially budget models, become more dominant.
During 2012, Japan became the first country in the world where data revenues exceeded voice revenues thanks to advanced mobile broadband networks and high adoption of the latest, most advanced smartphones. The report suggests that Argentina will see data revenues exceed voice revenues this year, doing so ahead of the UK and US, which aren't expected to reach this tipping point until 2014.
Kenya is expected to follow suit in 2016, with other emerging economies joining it as mobile broadband continues to take hold.
"Mobile data is not just a commodity, but is becoming the lifeblood of our daily lives, society and economy, with more and more connected people and things," said Michael O'Hara, chief marketing officer for GSMA.
"This is an immense responsibility and the mobile industry needs to continue collaborating with governments and key industry sectors to deliver products and services that help people around the world improve their businesses and societies," he added.
According to GSMA, the rise of mobile broadband is already providing benefits around the world, particularly in health, education, the automotive industry and in the growth of smart cities.
The report predicts more than one million lives in sub-Saharan Africa could be saved through the greater use of mobile connectivity, while in the developed world mobile products and services could save $400bn on annual healthcare spending.
In education, the use of mobile devices is expected to benefit flexible learning, allowing more children to stay in full-time schooling, particularly in the developing world.
Meanwhile, GSMA suggests that mobile data use will encourage intelligent transport systems which could cut down commuting times by over a third.
The GSMA report was published in collaboration with business consultancy firm PwC.
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