Variety of Uses Propels SMS Messaging

The utility of short messaging service (SMS) text messages has fuelled explosive growth at rates higher than Internet usage, and there’s no end in sight, according to Logica and the GSM Association.

Within three years, mobile telecom operators will be sending up to 100 billion short messages per month, a 170 percent annual increase over current levels. At this rate, the average mobile phone users will receive three SMS messages every day.

“The introduction of packet technologies such as GPRS [definition] and 3G [definition], and Internet browser capability such as WAP will have a dramatically positive effect on SMS volumes,” said Kevin Duffey, Logica’s group telecoms director. “As experience in leading markets such as Japan already demonstrates, operators expect SMS to complement perceived weaknesses in packet technology. In the WAP environment, SMS allows customers to download Internet content at the same time as holding a voice conversation.”

The potential of SMS has yet to be realized in the US, and SMS usage will vary considerably by market region (see table).

SMS Messages Sent
(in billions)
Region Dec. 1999 Dec. 2000
EMEA 2.0 24
Japan 2.0 36
Asia-Pacific 1.0 13
North America 0.2 10
South America 0.2 17
World 5.4 100
Source: Logica

The world’s GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications [definition]) networks hosted 9 billion SMS messages in August 200, according to the GSM Association. By September, the number of SMS messages should reach 10 billion messages in the month, and by the end of the year, it is predicted to reach 15 billion messages per month.

“What was relatively a cult following just a couple of years ago is a mass-market phenomenon today,” said Jim Healy, GSM Association Chair. “There is huge demand boosted by a vast volume, value, and variety of services offered to consumers by the world’s GSM networks and Internet applications service providers globally.”

Fifteen months ago, the number of SMS messages sent worldwide was 1 billion. There are now more than 365 million global GSM customers (nearly 60 percent of the world’s wireless market), and the GSM Association estimates that the 500-million-customer mark will be achieved early in 2001.

“The rise of SMS has been fuelled by many factors, including the extraordinary growth of pre-pay services, the development of WAP-based SMS messaging, SMS roaming, interconnection between operators and the sheer range and diversity of services now available to customers,” said Rob Conway, GSM Association CEO.

SMS applications now available include m-commerce, corporate, sports, financial, news, and weather. SMS can also be used to arrange dates, receive or send advertising, participate in auctions, gamble, or receive jokes or prayers.

SMS growth has been steady across all markets. In Germany, which experienced some of the earliest SMS adopters, more than 1 billion messages travel by SMS each month. In the UK, 560 million messages were sent in August of 2000. France and Italy also reported more than 500 million SMS messages sent in August. Asia-Pacific accounts for nearly 3 billion SMS messages per month, according to the GSM Association.

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