Between US$1.5 trillion-$1.7 trillion is the amount of capital the global telecoms industry needs to invest over the next five years in order to meet the demand for data.

Those were the figures mooted by Etisalat CEO Ahmad Abdulkarim Julfar and Telenor chief executive and GSMA chairman Jon Fredrik Baksaas during the opening keynote of this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

"The network of 2020 will be all-IP, it will need to handle enormous volumes of data, and be safe and secure. To realise this there are huge investments that need to be done," said Baksaas, during his opening remarks.

"The business models behind this investment need to be there," he said.

Julfar said investments cannot just be made by operators, hinting that over-the-top service providers and governments need to contribute in some way.

"All stakeholders need to work more closely together," he said.

U.A.E.-based Etisalat benefits from a government that has stated its ambition to be the world's leading provider of e-government services.

Julfar said the government is aware of the "transformative effect" that mobile technology has on people's lives.

Among the many initiatives being driven there is a scheme that will see mobile phones used in place of national identity cards.

"Other markets lack good, visionary governments," he acknowledged.

Meanwhile, during the same keynote, America Movil CEO Daniel Hajj hailed the progress of Latin America.

"A few decades ago, few people would have predicted the economic development of Latin America," he said, pointing to the financial crisis of the 1980s.

"Now you could call it the LatAm moment, or even the LatAm decade," he said.

ICT is a "powerful engine for growth" in the region, he said, and this has helped America Movil grow into Latin America's largest operator.

12 years ago, the company generated 80% of its revenue in its home market of Mexico; now that figure stands at 32%. Similarly in 2002, voice accounted for 90% of America Movil's revenue, Hajj said. Now it accounts for just 39%, with data and content services making up the lion's share.

"The road ahead is very promising, but we as an industry need more networks, better regulation and more viable ecosystems," he said.

Like his opposite numbers at Telenor and Etisalat, Hajj talked up the importance of making a return on investments.

"America Movil is investing in infrastructure for fixed, mobile and TV services. We need to find sustainable [business] models," he said.