Global mobile data revenue will surpass those for voice telecoms by 2018, fueled by the “mobile data explosion,” wireless industry association GSMA predicted in a report released February 25 during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

Surging demand for connected devices and machine-to-machine communications is “transforming the socioeconomic future of people in developed and developing countries,” as well as driving consumption of mobile data, according to GSMA.

Japan in 2012 became the first country in which mobile data revenues surpassed voice revenue, surging higher as a result of the availability of advanced mobile broadband networks and higher adoption of the latest smartphones, tablets and connected devices, and signaling the beginning of a trend that will extend globally, according to GSMA.

Mobile data revenues will exceed those of voice in Argentina this year, with those for the U.S. and U.K. following in 2014. Among developing countries, mobile data revenues in Kenya will surpass mobile voice revenues in 2016, “with other emerging economies expected to follow as mobile broadband continues to thrive,” according to GSMA.

Ongoing advancements in and deployments of advanced mobile broadband networks and smart, connected devices, appliances and equipment hold particular promise in four sectors, GSMA says: mHealth, mAutomotive, mEducation and Smart Cities.

Developed in collaboration with PwC, key takeaways from the “Connected Life” report include:

In developed countries:

  • mHealth could save $400 billion in healthcare costs in OECD countries
  • Connected cars could save one in nine lives through emergency calling services
  • mEducation can reduce student drop-outs by eight per cent or 1.8 million children
  • Smart metering can cut carbon emissions by 27 million tons – the equivalent of planting 1.2 billion trees

In developing countries:

  • mHealth to help save one million lives in sub-Saharan Africa
  • mAutomotive will improve food transport and storage, which could help feed more than 40 million people annually – equivalent to the entire  population of Kenya
  • mEducation can enable 180 million students to further their education
  • Intelligent transport systems could reduce commute times by 35 per cent, giving commuters back a whole week each year

“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,” GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara commented. “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.”