Revenues from mobile data are about to surpass those for voice calls. The move to data could bring a range of revolutionary benefits to consumers the world over as connected devices improve the quality of cities, of education and of healthcare.Photo: AFP/lev dolgachov/shutterstock.com
The latest mobile industry report shows that mobile operator data revenues will overtake voice call revenues by 2018, driven by the growing demand for connected devices and the benefits they can bring to consumers around the globe.
The GSMA report, compiled in partnership with PwC and published to coincide with the opening day of the Mobile World Congress, shows that in OECD countries alone, mobile-connected products used for health and fitness monitoring could save up to $400 billion in healthcare costs, while connected cars with a hotline to emergency services have the potential to save one in nine lives in road traffic accidents. Smart metering and interactive connected home devices such as the Nest Thermostat could cut carbon emissions by 27 million tonnes -- the equivalent of planting 1.2 billion trees.
The increase in mobile operator data revenues is a global trend across both developed and emerging markets. In emerging markets, where the growth of smartphones and of connected devices is increasing at an almost identical rate, such technologies will also have a profound impact on the socioeconomic future of consumers.
"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, 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."
Data growth has spurred significant advances in connected devices and mobile to mobile technologies globally. Four sectors in particular -- health, education, automotive and smart cities -- are building on the evolution of mobile broadband access and services.
For example, an estimated 240 million tonnes of food spoils during transit and in storage every year in emerging countries. Using mobile connectivity to track deliveries and transit and monitor the temperature and condition of food could save enough to feed 40 million people by 2017 -- the equivalent of the population of Kenya.
In education, the benefits that the explosion in mobile technology devices brings are obvious. Only 10 percent of students in emerging economies enter secondary education due to the pressures of finding work or becoming self-sufficient. Access to tablets, e-readers and virtual teachers could provide secondary education to a further 180 million students a year.
The development of smart cities with connected public transport systems will reduce congestion on roads, improve the performance of commuter trains and underground systems: identifying problems this way could reduce commute times by 35 percent. Meanwhile 'smart grid' technology for monitoring electricity and gas use has the potential to increase environmental responsibility by drastically cutting energy overuse through smart metering.