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Why call when you can text, e-mail, or instant message someone?

That’s the typical line of thinking of most smartphone owners, and eventually that’s going to add up. According to a report today from the mobile operator consortium GSMA, mobile data revenues will surpass voice revenues globally by 2018.

The prediction doesn’t come as a major surprise, since many carriers now offer unlimited voice plans together with tiered data offerings. Before smartphones were ubiquitous, it was the other way around (unlimited data was likely a major reason why AT&T’s network crumbled under the onslaught of new iPhone users for the first few years). Now smartphones seem less like phones and more like tiny cloud-connected computers.


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GSMA also pointed out that Japan became the first country where data revenues exceeded voice revenues in 2012, and it predicts Argentina to surpass that milestone this year. The U.S. and U.K. are set to hit it in 2014.

GSMA offered several predictions over how the mobile economy will affect the world over the next five years. The GSMA expects mobile health to save a million lives in sub-Saharan Africa, mobile education will help 180 million students, and mobile automative innovations will help feed more than 40 million people every year. The group also expects smarter transport systems, assisted by widespread mobile technology, will reduce commute times by 35 percent.

“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 GSMA chief marketing officer Michael O’Hara in a statement today. “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.”

Photo: Devindra Hardawar/VentureBeat

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