SMS Continues to Take Messaging World by Storm

Twelve billion text messages are sent worldwide each month to PCs, PDAs and mobile phones, according to Gartner Group Inc., and pagers add another 3 billion text messages each month.

Messaging numbers continue to grow, indicating that messaging is emerging as the killer wireless application, and standard messaging is being transformed into instant messaging (IM), a much more collaborative, friendly mechanism, complete with “buddy lists” that indicate which contacts are online simultaneously.

According to the GSM Association, 15 billion SMS (Short Message Service) text messages were sent over GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) wireless networks during December 2000. The figure indicates a fivefold increase in the volume of text messages generated every month by GSM wireless customers around the globe in the past year.

“This is a truly staggering demonstration of the increasing popularity of the SMS facility,” said Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association. “SMS text is now achieving critical mass in many international markets. We have seen a huge culture change in the way people choose to communicate — now the visual message is as powerful and popular as voice.”

An increase in the volume, value, variety and flexibility of services for consumers has contributed to the growth.

“SMS has become an integral part of people’s lives — business and personal,” Conway said. “An ever increasing raft of new applications, particularly information services, is likely to further boost take-up and usage. The GSM Association is already anticipating that by December 2001, we will be seeing monthly global SMS volumes achieve the 25-billion mark, and over 200 billion in total for 2001.”

Since the initial launch of text services, SMS has steadily grown before experiencing a huge increase during the last year. This pattern has been reflected around the world, as individual markets achieve mass penetration, fuelled by the popularity of GSM prepaid subscriptions. In the UK, customers generated 756 million text messages in December 2000, representing growth close to 300 percent compared to December 1999, while Germany accounted for 1.8 billion SMS messages during the month.

Asia-Pacific is experiencing rapid growth of SMS, particularly in countries such as China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia. In the Philippines, the initial introduction of free text messaging services within the monthly subscription fee created an explosion of over 18 million messages a day. Now, network operators have introduced a token text message charge to encourage “responsible text messaging,” although volumes continue to increase as the prepaid customer base grows.

The holiday season and New Year’s celebrations saw a peak in SMS messaging. The average SMS traffic per GSM customer has grown from 0.4 in 1995 to an average of 35 messages per GSM customer each month by the end December 2000.

“By far the greatest usage of traffic continues to be generated by consumer applications,” Conway said. “Person-to-person messaging still creates high volumes of short duration text message traffic for operators, especially in the pre-paid market.”

Mobile Lifestreams estimates that more than 60 billion SMS messages will be sent worldwide in December 2002 (see table). Among the reasons for the growth are a critical mass of installed SMS-capable handsets; more significant price reductions and bundled message packages in Europe; and wider implementation of value-added services and applications, such as chat and email, that build on the underlying SMS bearer.


SMS Volume by Region
Dec. 2001 vs. Dec. 2002
Region Estimated SMS Volume per Month
December 2001 December 2002
European Union 20,000,000,000 27,000,000,000
Eastern Europe 4,000,000,000 7,000,000,000
Other Europe 1,500,000,000 2,000,000,000
South America 3,500,000,000 7,000,000,000
North America 4,000,000,000 7,000,000,000
Middle East & India 1,000,000,000 2,000,000,000
Asia 5,650,000,000 10,000,000,000
Africa 350,000,000 450,000,000
Global 40.00 billion 62.45 billion
Notes: Excludes Japan, voicemail notifications and post-text message formats.
Source: Mobile Lifestreams

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