The latest forecasts from UK-based Informa Telecoms & Media said mobile SMS traffic reached five trillion by the close of 2010 but the number of mobile phone text messages is expected to reach 8.7 trillion a year by 2015.
The report, dubbed Mobile Messaging, published on the website of Informa Telecoms and Media said global SMS revenues are also forecast to rise to US$136.9 billion in 2015 from US$105.5 billion in 2010.
“SMS will remain a significant source of revenues and traffic for mobile operators on a global basis until at least 2015,” the report said.
It quoted the author of the report and Senior Analyst Pamela Clark-Dickson as saying mobile operators are spending heavily on rollouts of LTE and other high-speed mobile data networks, leaving relatively little in the budget for messaging services.
“However SMS remains a core service for mobile users and accounted for 80% of data-and-messaging revenues in 2010,” Clark-Dickson said.
She said “SMS will continue to be the most popular form of messaging for a number of reasons: universal access and interoperability across devices and mobile operator networks, ease of use, reliability, and low cost.”
The report noted that although SMS was traditionally used primarily by consumers, it is increasingly being used by government departments, banks and financial institutions, brands, retailers and transport providers, among others, for increasingly sophisticated purposes.
“SMS is used not just to deliver alerts, information services or mobile marketing campaigns; it is used to deliver appointment reminders, tickets, coupons, banking and payments, and loyalty programs, among others,” the report noted.
It said SMS is also becoming increasingly popular in emerging markets, in particular for the delivery of a range of financial services to mobile users who would otherwise not have access to banking products, for information services, and for other types of messaging services, including e-mail and instant messaging.
The report observed that the types of information services that are being delivered by SMS in emerging markets in Africa and other regions are playing a vital role in improving the economic and social well-being of mobile users and their families in these markets.
“For example, farmers can use SMS to receive weather reports, crop prices and information about fertilizers, and in so doing hopefully increase their crop yield and allow them to get the best possible price for their harvest,” it said.
Meanwhile clinics can also harness SMS to better manage their stocks of medication or to allow patients to check whether their medicines are fake, which will ultimately help reduce the spread of diseases such as malaria and HIV.
“The fact that SMS is the universal data communications channel on the mobile device is also a huge benefit for businesses and government departments in developed markets and, more recently, for social networks like Facebook and Twitter,” Clark-Dickson said, adding that by enabling SMS updates or alerts for their services, social networks, businesses and government departments can reach all mobile users, and not just the segment of users that owns a smartphone.
She was confident that SMS would remain a key mobile messaging medium over the coming years, but cautioned that growth in SMS revenues is slowing or falling, particularly in developed markets, and mobile operators may lose a significant cash cow if they did not act to introduce or enable the introduction of new and innovative SMS-based services.
By Samuel Dowuona