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UK Texting Takes Off

  |  July 16, 2003   |  Comments

More than 8 billion text messages were sent across the UK since the beginning of 2003, while traffic to U.S. mobile phone Web sites spikes 106 percent during the same time period.

Text messaging is taking hold, but the communication app's popularity is contained to certain regions. According to the Mobile Data Association (MDA), 1.7 billion text messages were sent across the four UK GSM networks in May 2003 – up from 1.66 billion in April – bringing the yearly total to 8.2 billion.

Traffic to Mobile Phones Web Sites
Location % of all visits going
to Mobile Phones Sites
U.K. 0.49%
Singapore 0.44%
New Zealand 0.40%
Australia 0.37%
Hong Kong 0.32%
U.S. 0.06%
Source: Hitwise

The year-over-year spike in the UK is dramatic: MDA estimates that 55 million messages were sent daily, on average, in May 2003; 45 million in May 2002; and 30 million in May 2001. Moreover, continuous growth is evidenced by the customer base – 9.6 million in June 1998 compared to 50 million as of May 2003. Since the start of collating figures in June 1998 approximately 45 billion person-to-person text messages have now been sent.

In reviewing the last five years of issuing text messaging figures, MDA Chairman Mike Short comments: "In 1998 there were no info alerts, limited mobile content, no text TV or mobile banking, short codes and mobile marketing, or colour screens, ringtones and games. Most of us thought that Mobile Internet was the next big thing. However we did have early text experience and the beginnings of WAP."

Text messaging has evolved since the first message was sent in 1992, and while the communications tool may prove useful, the majority are more likely to talk rather than text. The CPP Group surveyed UK users about their texting preferences.

Which of the following, if any, have you done
by text message rather than by telephone?
Wished someone happy birthday/Christmas/anniversary, etc. 28%
Arranged/cancelled social arrangements/family engagements 16%
Received sports or news updates 7%
Made flirtatious suggestions 7%
Argued 7%
Lied to a friend/partner 5%
Asked someone out 4%
Contacted an ex-partner 4%
Ended a relationship 2%
Checked my bank account 2%
Thrown a sickie from work 2%
Other 5%
None 55%
Source: The CPP Group

CPP Group's research revealed that avid users are more likely to be younger, with 85 percent of those under 25 reporting that they would rather text than call, compared to 14 percent of those over age 55. The MDA found that nearly all (94 percent) of those in the 18-to-24 age range send personal texts, and roughly one-third send 36 or more messages per week.

While the U.S. lags considerably behind other countries in the amount of traffic they have going to mobile phone Web sites, a steady upward trend has been noted by Hitwise. The monitoring company found that visits to mobile phone Web sites increased an overwhelming 106 percent from January 2003 to July 2003.

American women had the slight edge over men as visitors to various text messaging web sites.

Demographics of U.S. Text Messaging Sites
Site Predominant Gender Predominant Age Group
Sprint PCS - Messaging Female (59%) 18-to-24 (25%)
Verizon TXT Messaging Female (55%) 35-to-44 (27%)
SMS.ac Male (57%) 25-to-34 (34%)
Yahoo Mobile SMS Female (57%) 35-to-44 (34%)
Source: Hitwise

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