DUBAI: Arab states have benefited economically from a 32% annual average growth in mobile connections over the past decade, new research has argued.

The Arab States Mobile Observatory report from the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, says that rapid expansion in the number of mobile connections in the region, including the Middle East and North Africa, from 19m in 2002 to 391m in 2012, has directly contributed $132bn to the economies of the countries concerned.

The report also suggested that mobile technologies have created 1.2m jobs, a figure which has the potential to rise to 5.9m by 2025.

"Mobile communications in the Arab States have transformed society and fostered substantial growth in investment, innovation and productivity," said Tom Phillips, Chief Government and Regulatory Affairs Officer, GSMA.

"However, there are far greater opportunities that the mobile industry can deliver for the region," he added. "Governments need to take action now to increase spectrum availability and stabilise the regulatory environment if they want to continue the momentum and realise mobile's full potential."

Mobile broadband connections are forecast to rise from 40m in 2011 to 142m in 2017, a 255% increase, and the GSMA argued that releasing additional spectrum could raise the region's combined GDP by $108bn over ten years between 2015 and 2025.

In addition, the harmonisation of spectrum bands would lead to economies of scale for device manufacturers, which in turn would give more consumers access to affordable mobile technology.

As well as spectrum requirements, the GSMA said that high consumer taxes on mobile products and services are holding back the growth of the sector, decreasing affordability and, in turn, usage levels.

It suggests that revised mobile taxation schemes could increase usage and generate additional revenues for governments.

Data sourced from GSMA; additional content by Warc staff