Mobile data to overtake voice calls as the moneymaker by 2018

25th February 2013

A study released by mobile industry body the GSMA to coincide with their annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has forecast that mobile operator data revenues will overtake voice revenues by the year 2018 as the world becomes more and more “connected”.

The UK and US in particular will see data revenues exceeding voice by as early as 2014.   Argentina would be the reach this level slightly before in 2013.  Developing countries can expect to start reaching the level in 2016.  Japan has already seen data revenues beat voice revenues last year with $48 billion and $46.5 billion of revenue respectively.

This change is being driven by a surge in use and demand of connected devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.  The vast benefits of this are already being seen, particularly in developing countries, but also in already developed countries.

Perhaps most significant is the improvement in world healthcare due to the development of mobile health – the practice of medicine supported by mobile devices.

The GMSA laid out it’s detailed predictions of exactly how it feels mobile connected products and services will drastically improve people’s lives over the next 5 years.

With “mHealth” in particular, the GMSA believes that it will help to save one million lives in sub-Saharan Africa – one of the most impoverished parts of the world.  mHealth products help to fight HIV, TB and malaria.  In the developed world meanwhile, it is estimated mHealth could help to save $400 billion in healthcare costs.

“mAutomotive” – the development of solutions make safer and more efficient vehicles – is predicted  to save 1 in 9 lives in the developed world through calling emergency services.  In developing countries it will improve food transport and storage, potentially aiding feeding more than 40 million people every year.  240 million tonnes of food are spoiled during transit every year, but the introduction of mobile truck tracking, storage facility temperature measurements and optimising streamlined fleets would help save vast amounts.

“mEducation” is predicted to be a $70 billion market opportunity by 2020.  The GSMA aims to accelerate the take up of innovative new mobile education solutions.  This aims to reduce student dropouts in the developed world, whilst enabling a further 180 million in the developing world to get a decent education.  Mobile handsets, e-readers and tablets enable flexible learning, which boosts student retention by 1.8 million children.

In terms of improving the environment and also general living standards in everyday life, mobile systems are going a long way.  It is said up to 27 million tonnes of carbon emissions could be cut, which is the same as planting 1.2 billion trees.  Transport infrastructure could also benefit with mobile systems reducing commute times by 35% – the equivalent to saving a week’s worth of time annually.  This would be achieved through a combination of monitoring traffic flows, and further encouraging use of public transport systems.

In 2014, the UK is anticipated to have £9.38 billion of data revenue, compared to £9.18 billion of voice revenue.   This will probably be accelerated by the rollout of 4G services across the country during 2013, allowing larger amount of mobile data to be transmitted at a far faster rate.


Robin James