Mobile operators will make more money from data than from voice by 2018, according to the GSMA.
The organisation – which represents the mobile industry – said that the surge in connected devices and the growth of machine-to-machine communications were creating huge demand.
In a report it lays out some of the ways that mobile is transforming lives, particularly in the developing world.
Mobile health services could help save one million lives in Africa, it said.
The five-year forecasts were released to coincide with Mobile World Congress – the association’s annual tech event in Barcelona.
Health and learning
The fight against deadly diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and the ongoing fight against HIV will increasingly be helped by the greater use of mobile connectivity, according to the report.
Some 240 tonnes of food spoils during transit and in storage every year, but using mobile to track trucks and monitor the temperature of storage facilities could save enough food to feed 40 million people in 2017 – equivalent to the entire population of Kenya – it said. Meanwhile, the use of mobile handsets, e-readers and tablets could put 1.8 million more children in education by 2017, it suggested.
Michael O’Hara, chief marketing officer at GSMA, said:
“Mobile data is not just a commodity, it is becoming the lifeblood of our daily lives, society and economy, with more and more connected people and things.”
The association predicted that the US and UK would see data revenues exceeding voice by 2014.
Argentina would get there even earlier, it said, reaching the milestone in 2013, while Kenya – one of Africa’s most connected countries – would hit the target in 2016. It is not just the developing world that will benefit. It predicted that mobile health services would shave $400bn (£265m) off the OECD countries’ annual healthcare bill by 2017.
It added that connected cars could save one in nine lives through emergency calling services and, smart metering could cut carbon emissions by 27 million tonnes – the equivalent of planting 1.2 billion trees.
GSMA’s members benefit from it publicising the benefits of their creations.
However, the wider mobile phone industry has also faced criticism in the past about pollution caused by toxic substances which can leak from some devices if they are dumped in landfill sites, and evidence that some manufacturers have employed underage workers.