BARCELONA, Spain, Feb. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The GSMA today released a new report, "The Mobile Economy 2013", which provides a comprehensive overview of the mobile industry today, and outlines the key opportunities and challenges for the mobile industry over the next five years. Developed by the GSMA and A.T. Kearney, the wide-ranging study offers critical insights into the health of the mobile communications industry and details the global enablers needed to spur further investment and growth in the sector. With the number of mobile subscribers standing at 3.2 billion people, nearly half of the world's population now uses mobile communications. It is expected that a further 700 million subscribers will be added by 2017 and the 4 billion-subscriber milestone will be reached in 2018. "Mobile is a vibrant and evolving industry at the heart of everyday life for billions of people around the world," said Anne Bouverot, Director General, GSMA. "Mobile has gone beyond being a mere communications tool to one that provides life-enhancing, and in some cases life-saving, services to men, women and children. It's exciting to look at the possibilities ahead of us as we connect the world's population to the mobile Internet." Socio-Economic Contribution of MobileThe mobile industry is a major contributor to the global economy. The total mobile ecosystem revenues were US$1.6 trillion, or 2.2 per cent of global GDP. For the period through 2017, the mobile industry will invest US$1.1 trillion in capital expenditure and will contribute US$2.6 trillion to public funding. Importantly, in 2017, companies across the ecosystem will employ nearly 10 million people globally. "The mobile industry's economic impact reaches far beyond its already-impressive $1.6 trillion in revenues, to boost individual well-being, corporate productivity and government funding," said Mark Page, leader of A.T. 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. Cross-industry initiatives such as those described in this report will be essential to operators in ensuring a central position in the mobile ecosystem value chain." Proliferation of Mobile Broadband Is Enabling Growth of DataAt the end of 2012, there were 6.8 billion mobile connections worldwide, a figure expected to grow to 9.7 billion by the end of 2017. Mobile broadband accounted for 1.6 billion of these connections in 2012, increasing to 5.1 billion in 2017, including 920 million LTE connections. The proliferation of mobile broadband is enabling an explosion in data traffic and in 2012, 0.9 exabytes of data traversed mobile networks every month; this will increase by 66 per cent to 11.2 exabytes per month in 2017. The rate of growth is best illustrated by the fact that total traffic volumes in 2012 were as high as all prior years combined. Global Enablers to Spur Investment and GrowthThe report highlights several factors critical to the further growth of the industry. With the growing adoption of mobile broadband and the dramatic rise in data traffic, the future of mobile depends on operators having timely and reasonable access to the necessary spectrum resource. Another essential element in enabling growth is a transparent, consultative and predictable regulatory environment, addressing spectrum licencing, competition, taxation and intellectual property. And finally, it is important that anti-trust authorities, while protecting the market against any abuse, should allow the industry to re-organise and consolidate to address new economic realities. "The mobile communications industry is creating a mobile economy, both directly through network investment, job creation and contributions to public funding, and by transforming adjacent industries such as education, healthcare, payments, transportation and utilities," continued Bouverot. "But to fully realise this future and to enable the mobile industry to maximise its investments, it is essential that we establish a light-touch regulatory environment, based predominantly on competition, and develop new business models that will allow all ecosystem participants to benefit from the mobile economy."