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Will SMS crash or hold on?

Precious Mncwango's picture

We went from speaking over fences to calling each other from tiny and awkward phone booths. Then came the Nokia ‘brick’ phones that allowed for people to communicate with each in the comfort of their own homes.

Text messaging made it even easier to speak to people while doing something else at the same time. Years later, as phones became advanced communication became easy and affordable even to people from low income households.   

Speaking to friends has never been this cheap but can these new apps really replace tradional SMSing or are they operating on different levels altogether? In 2011 Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com, wrote an article in which he factually stated the success of the global SMS stream with just about 4.6 billion users globally.

Two years later ,April 29 2013, Informa published an article on their website based on research that had been done by Informa, in 2012, revealing that traditional P2P (peer-to-peer) SMS traffic had been overtaken by OTT (over-the-top) messaging and was predicted to double in traffic by the end of the year 2013 with an estimate of 41 billion OTT messages sent everyday.  

Neelie Kroes, who is the Vice President of the European Commission, stamped that with a tweet early morning saying:

It's official: chat apps have overtaken SMS globally. The cash cow is dying. Time for telcos to wake up & smell the data coffee

Communication has changed a lot and continues to change everytime a new app comes into play. Apps dictate how we communicate with those around us and generally the cheaper the app the more certain we can be that it will become popular especially amongst young people.

The World Wide Worx survey The Mobile Internet in South Africa 2012 revealed that cellphone users are increasingly adjusting their budgets to allow for more data bundles.

Blackberry instant messaging followed by Twitter were discovered to be the user’s biggest uses of data bundles on cellphones last year. Simultaneously there has been a decrease in voice calls from 77% to 73% according to the survey. This clearly shows the gradual change and adaption of people to these relatively cheaper platforms.

What remains a mystery is the traditional P2P SMS sector which just last year was holding steady and positioned infront of OTT messaging apps. In simply a year or perhaps even months OTT messaging apps have overtaken the traditional route and if Informa is correct in their estimates then OTT messaging will soon do more than just overtake it, it will leave it buried in the dust heap.

What is also interesting is the fact that there are more P2P SMS users than there are OTT messaging users. Maybe this is what the P2P sector can hold on to and use to cling on than very thin rope. But as the Informa survey states the average number of texts sent by the P2P average user is about 5 texts a day and the average OTT users sending about 32 texts a day.

I have attached a podcast in which I interview a Rhodes University student about the direct messaging and using messaging apps.