Text messaging, the simple telecoms service that turned into a global
phenomenon, is under threat from free smartphone services and operators
need to find alternative revenue streams, analysts say.
message service, or SMS, started as a way to use spare telecoms capacity
but has become a key cash generator for operators, while offering users
a cheap way to keep in touch with friends and family and avoid the
expense of voice calls.
But the surge in Internet-enabled
smartphones in recent years has led to the rise of free voice, video and
text messaging applications that are threatening to send SMS into
According to technology research firm Ovum, SMS
contributed about 57 percent of non-voice revenues for telecom companies
globally in 2009 but this is projected to fall to 47 percent this year.
estimates the rise of alternative messaging services has slashed $8.7
billion from the revenues of telecom operators worldwide in 2010 and
$13.9 billion in 2011.
"SMS in the next few years will contribute
less and less to non-voice revenue for operators," said Neha Dharia, a
consumer telecoms analyst at Ovum.
"Consumers now have the ability
to send text messaging through a variety of ways, such as IM (instant
messaging), messaging apps, social networks and so on," she told AFP.
products offer greater features and are competitively priced or even
free. SMS is a more expensive option in certain markets and the
interface is not as user friendly or intuitive as other messaging
products in the market."
The surge in mobile Internet, driven by
the explosion in smartphones and tablet computers, was a major topic at
the four-day CommunicAsia fair that ended in Singapore on Friday.
devices are on track to replace conventional computers as the primary
means to connect to the Internet, speakers said, and offer access to the
likes of Yahoo!, Google and Facebook, among others, with their own
instant messaging features.
At the same time applications such as
WhatsApp, Viber, Tango and the iPhone's Facetime offer free voice and
video calls and message services when there is wireless connection.
The changeover has already begun.
from Singapore's Infocomm Development Authority showed users in the
tech-savvy city-state sent and received a record 2.46 billion SMSs in
September 2011 but the number has since been falling and was down to
2.21 billion in March.
"I use it (SMS) a lot less these days,"
said Joscelyn Tan, 35, a corporate marketing specialist for an
electronics company in the city-state.
"WhatsApp is so convenient.
Plus it's free and a lot more fun with all the 'emoticons'. I used to
have to pay for extra SMS, not anymore," she added.
But it remains a slow process in some of Asia's biggest telecommunications markets.
a Pew Research Centre survey of mobile phone users in 21 countries last
year, Indonesians reported the heaviest SMS usage, with 96 percent
saying they regularly send texts.
The vast majority of Indonesia's
240 million people cannot afford smartphones and buy old-model Nokia
handsets, which can cost as little as $15, making text messaging a
primary means of communications.
But even so the country is also
one of the world's biggest BlackBerry markets -- in large part because
of its wildly popular instant messaging services.
With a mobile
phone penetration rate of nearly one handset for every Filipino, SMS
messaging has become an important part of Philippine culture and
Official data shows an average of 15 text messages -- a
mix of jokes, chain messages, political or showbiz rumours, uplifting
quotes and invitations -- are sent each day by each user, making
Filipinos among the world's biggest users.
As well as being
harnessed to organise "people power" political protests, text messaging
also allows Filipinos to communicate cheaply with relatives who are part
of the nine million-strong work force abroad.
managing director at TeleResources Engineering, said SMS is likely to
decline as people increasingly switch to smartphones.
smartphone penetration in these Asian markets comes up... we will see a
dramatic impact on SMS traffic," Dobbin told AFP on the sidelines of