BARCELONA: Mobile broadband connections will account for over half of global mobile connections within five years, a report has predicted.

The Mobile Economy 2013, from the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators, and AT Kearney, the consultancy, forecasts that while the total number of mobile connections will grow from 6.8bn in 2012 to 9.7bn in 2017, mobile broadband will grow markedly faster, from 1.6bn connections to 5.1bn over the same period.

As a result, the share taken by mobile broadband will more than double from 23.5% to 52%.

As a consequence, the GSMA expects an "explosion" in data traffic and points out that total traffic volumes in 2012 were already as high as all previous years combined.

The mobile industry is of increasing importance to the global economy, the report argues, contributing $1.6tr, or 2.2% of global GDP, during 2012.

And over the next five years it is expected to invest a further $1.1tr in capital expenditure and employ 10m people worldwide.

"The mobile industry's economic impact reaches far beyond its already-impressive $1.6tr in revenues, to boost individual well-being, corporate productivity and government funding," said Mark Page, leader of AT Kearney's communications, media and technology practice, and co-author of the report.

"As the market expands with the spread of smartphones, 4G networks and innovative applications across the globe, the challenge for mobile operators is to stake their claim to a share of the associated revenue growth," he added.

But the director general of the GSMA issued a warning. "To fully realise this future and to enable the mobile industry to maximise its investments," said Anne Bouverot, "it is essential that we establish a light-touch regulatory environment … and develop new business models that will allow all ecosystem participants to benefit from the mobile economy."

Data sourced from GSMA; additional content by Warc staff