Australians would each have about $650 less in their pockets if mobile broadband didn’t exist, according to an analysis commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The technology has saved businesses time and money and made consumers more productive.
As a result, the economy has grown by an extra 0.28 per cent every year since 2007, the report says.
It says Australia’s GDP was $33.8 billion larger by the end of 2013 than it would have been without mobile broadband – a 2.28 per cent bump.
Businesses interviewed as part of the analysis reported that the technology had reduced their costs by an average of 1.4 per cent.
The mobile communications sector has grown rapidly since 2006, with data use increasing 1000-fold.
Data is projected to continue to grow at an annual rate of 38 per cent, quadrupling to 81.1 million gigabytes by 2017.
ACMA chairman Chris Chapman said the research vindicated “tough decisions” taken by the government and his organisation to hand more radiofrequency spectrum space to mobile broadband.
Further spectrum space previously used for analogue transmissions, known as the “digital dividend”, will be handed to mobile operators in 2015.
“It’s going to help underpin the broadband sector’s exponential growth, download speeds and, importantly, the continued contribution to Australian productivity in years to come,” he said in a conference call.
The report comes amid warnings from the CSIRO that Australia is facing a “spectrum crunch”, in which soaring demand for services could outstrip the finite capacity of the radiofrequency spectrum within a few years.
Left unaddressed, it could create a new digital divide in which remote Australians will struggle to access basic online services, a report from the agency says.
To squeeze more out of available spectrum, the report suggests that even more space currently allocated to TV and mobile voice networks be handed over to wireless internet.
TV and radio could be delivered solely as streaming content, sharing frequency with all other forms of internet traffic.
Phone calls, which currently have their own spectrum band, could instead be carried out over the internet using mobile data, making phone numbers redundant.