Killer app hits 20: SMS celebr8s bday


Txt msg still top app 🙂

Happy birthday SMS, which celebrates its twentieth year today. The first ever text was sent on 3 December 1992, when a 22 year old British engineer called Neil Papworth used his computer to send the message 'Merry Christmas' to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.  Within 12 months of the first text, several European operators had launched SMS. TeliaSonera Sweden was the first to offer a commercial, network-based SMS voicemail notification service in 1993, and Radiolinja Finland (Elisa) was the first to provide commercial person-to-person SMS, Informa Telecoms & Media said.

According to Ofcom research, the average UK consumer now sends around 50 text messages every week. In 2011 more than 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK, which was almost triple the amount sent five years previously in 2006 when 51 billion texts were sent.

However, the first half of 2012 saw two quarterly declines in the volume of SMS messages sent in the UK. The first quarter of this year showed 39.1 billion texts, and the second quarter showed 38.5 billion, falling slightly from their peak of 39.7 billion in the fourth quarter in 2011.

Ofcom claimed this decline could be down to people using alternative forms of text based communications, such as instant messaging and social networking sites. The recent increase in ownership of internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones, could be responsible for this trend, the regulator said, pointing to the fact that four in 10 (39%) adults now own a smartphone, which have made it easier to access web-based communications.

Pamela Clark-Dickson, senior analyst for mobile content and applications at Informa Telecoms & Media, said: 'SMS is in a fight for its life in some markets as it finds its role as a mobile communications service is usurped by free messaging services, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Viber, KakaoTalk and Facebook Messenger.

'The concern for mobile operators is that the malaise that SMS faces in countries such as the Netherlands, Spain, China, South Korea and the Philippines, where SMS traffic and revenues are in decline, will inevitably spread, as the penetration of smartphones and mobile broadband grows.'

Yet Clark-Dickson added: 'But by no means is it all doom and gloom for SMS. Indeed, SMS traffic continues to grow year on year globally, according to Informa Telecoms & Media. In 2012 Informa forecasts that global SMS traffic will increase to 6.7 trillion messages, representing a year on year increase of 13.6%, up from 5.9 trillion messages in 2011. That global growth is set to continue; Informa forecasts SMS traffic will total 9.4 trillion messages in 2016, and will generate $127 billion in revenues.

'Also, in emerging markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the penetration of smartphones, mobile broadband and home-based internet-enabled computers is relatively low. Consequently, SMS has become an essential service for communications and for enabling services such as mobile banking and payments, and the dissemination of information that is of vital importance to the promotion of health, safety and economic development. SMS is increasingly being used in innovative and imaginative ways in these markets.'

Texting is still popular with younger mobile comms users said Ofcom; it is now most prolific among 12 to 15 year olds, who say they are sending an average of 193 texts every week, almost four times as much as the UK average. This has more than doubled from 12 months ago, when just 91 were sent (according to Ofcom's 'Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2012').  Ofcom's Communications Market Report 2012 shows that texting is now the most popular way to stay in contact with more people texting friends and family on a daily basis then talking face to face. Teenagers and young adults are leading these changes, with 90% of 16 to 24 year olds texting on a daily basis to communicate with friends and family. By comparison, talking on the phone is less popular among this younger age group, with 67% making mobile phone calls on a daily basis, and only 63% talking face to face. Older girls (12 to 15 year olds) are texting significantly more than boys, sending an average of 221 messages a week; 35% more than boys of the same age, who send 164 a week. The average 8 to 11 year old sends 41 texts each week, almost double the number sent in 2011, which was 23 for this age group, according to Ofcom's research.  James Thickett, Ofcom's director of research, commented: 'When texting was first conceived many saw it as nothing more than a niche service. But texts have now surpassed traditional phone calls and meeting face to face as the most frequent way of keeping in touch for UK adults, revolutionising the way we socialise, work and network.  'For the first time in the history of mobile phones, SMS volumes are showing signs of decline. However the availability of a wider range of communications tools like instant messaging and social networking sites, mean that people might be sending fewer SMS messages, but they are 'texting' more than ever before.' Clark-Dickson concluded: 'Overall, the future remains bright for SMS, if only because it will be some years before free messaging applications can achieve the same level of penetration as SMS. The penetration of smartphones and mobile broadband represent barriers to entry for consumers, as does the lack of interoperability between the OTT offerings.'


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