Text messaging remains key to operators and users

The majority of the second-quarter results being published by European telcos make for gloomy reading. Most operators are reporting flat or lower profits, with telecoms regulators being blamed partly for this lacklustre performance following the imposition of tariff cuts.

But digging deeper into these quarterly numbers highlights the fact that mobile data has become a vital revenue source for operators, with mobile broadband uptake being the standout growth sector.

O2 UK mentioned that its mobile data traffic rose by 31 per cent year-on-year during the second quarter, while Vodafone announced that its revenue from data was up over 24 per cent for the same period.

What is less publicised is the continued importance of text messaging within this booming growth of non-voice traffic. The ITU recently illustrated this by claiming text messages sent by the 5.3 billion mobile users was generating $14,000 (around €9,700) per second for operators around the world, assuming an average of $0.07 per SMS.

Also of note are the findings from a recent YouGov study that almost a third of smartphone users believe that texting is just as important as making and receiving calls.

The research also detailed that texts were ranked by over 80 per cent of those surveyed as being the most popular way to send a message to a friend or relative--significantly ahead of e-mailat 7 per cent--and Facebook with 6 per cent.

If you accept this data, then the current enthusiasm for launching handsets tailored specifically for Facebook use might be questionable, given that texting has already been able to fight off competition from instant messaging.

However, text messaging was also slow to grow when first launched in the mid-1990s with an average of five messages a year being sent by GSM subscribers. And for those around during this era, the first message was sent in December 1992 to a Vodafone Orbitel 901 handset wishing the recipient a Merry Christmas.--Paul