Mobile operators worldwide are seen investing up to $72 billion in wireless broadband technologies this year to accommodate surging demand, according to telecoms industry body GSMA.

The GSM Association (GSMA) said on Wednesday the operators were expected to earmark about half of capital expenditure in mobile infrastructure for investments in mobile broadband, an overall increase of about 15 percent compared with 2009.

Up to $34 billion will be invested in the Asia Pacific region, some $19 billion in North America and up to $14 billion in Europe, according to capex investment data compiled by Deutsche Bank, the GSMA said.

In addition, HSPA is showing significant increase in growth, Dan Warren, director of technology at GSMA said.

Mobile broadband refers to mobile data connections using the High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) standard -- a widely deployed technology that can handle both voice and data transfers so users can talk on the phone and surf the Web at the same time.

By the end of this year we will have almost 340 million HSPA connections globally with 13 million new connections per month, Warren said.

By comparison, on average, 9 million new HSPA connections were added by the end of 2009.

That is not churn, those are totally new connections, Warren said.

The number of connections does not translate directly into the number of users, however, because in many mature markets, one user may have several phones.

In emerging markets, on the other hand, many users share or rent a device.

In Russia for example, laptop sharing is very popular, Warren said.

(Reporting by Nicola Leske; editing by John Stonestreet)