GSMA, which represents the mobile industry, said the surge in connected devices and the growth of machine-to-machine communications were creating huge demand for data access, particularly in the developing world.
"Mobile data is not just a commodity, it is becoming the lifeblood of our daily lives, society and economy, with more and more connected people and things," Michael O'Hara, chief marketing officer at GSMA, said at Mobile World Congress, the association's annual tech event in Barcelona, Spain.
Mobile health services could help save 1 million lives in Africa, GSMA said in a five-year forecast released to coincide with the congress, while mobile handsets, e-readers and tablets could put 1.8 million more children in education by 2017.
The fight against diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and the ongoing fight against HIV will increasingly be helped by the greater use of mobile connectivity, a release from GSMA's London headquarters said.
And not just the developing world would benefit, the forecast said; it predicted that mobile health services would shave $400 billion from the annual healthcare bill in developed countries by 2017.