Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ringing in the New Year with 10 billion text messages

There is nothing like 10 billion text messages to highlight the simultaneously strong and changing position of the SMS as we enter the Chinese Year of the Dragon.

Photo by Paolo Camera
That is the likely number of text messages sent in China over the two-day Chinese New Year earlier this week, according to at least one projection based on figures from previous years.

There are already figures from Beijing for this year, and there were 1.1 billion text messages sent, according to news reports, with the local China Mobile unit seeing a more than three percent increase over last year, a slightly lower rate than in 2011.

Despite these big numbers, the Chinese market is not immune to the pressures on SMS from over the top (OTT) and microblogging services such as Weibo, Kik and Wiexin.  Earlier this month, Steven Millward at Penn-Olson wondered whether this was the year that traditional texting declined over the New Year. It was a good question, as we reported on lower texting numbers in some markets, though definitely not all, earlier this month.

Millward’s conclusion?  The Chinese market is safe, for now. Texts are cheap, 3G is not widespread and there is still room for growth in the market. This is the same conclusion we came to in our very first post last year – Asia will not see the same fast downward trend as Europe especially.

Meanwhile, outside China, operators used the holiday as an opportunity to drive traffic by offering deals.  Axis in Indonesia offered a “reload bonus program” and reduced calling rates to Singapore, while in Singapore itself, SingTel customers got free calls, SMS, MMS, and mio TV over the two-day holiday.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Finding mobile app innovation the SMS way

Everyone talks about over-the-top (OTT) innovations in voice and messaging. It’s the hot new thing.

But let’s not forget the many – and lucrative – possibilities of the simple SMS.

Developers around the world are building a dizzying array of customized solutions that utilize SMS/MSS to communicate to their customers. More than 75,000 software developers in the US alone are building mobile apps using code from American startup Twilio that leverage on traditional voice and texting capabilities. is an app - developed by Erik Dungan using Twilio - that helps find the correct shoe size of a gift recipient using questions sent by anonymous SMS. When the recipient responds, the sender receives the answer by SMS. The recipient can even receive follow-up questions asking what kind of shoe they prefer for example.

We’ve all been faced with a bewildering array of sizes and styles when shopping for gifts. So it’s unsurprising that this simple solution and others like it are proving wildly popular.

More mash-ups created for web developers by companies like Twilio is good news for operators. They give operators new opportunities to monetize their network capabilities. This forward-looking engagement with “old” technologies like texting can only boost revenue streams. And if you look even a little farther out, cloud-based applications such as call centers, interactive voice response systems, group texting and conference calling are on the horizon.

Could 2012 be the year that highlights the utility of infrastructure-as-a-service?

I believe it already is.

How will all this affect the business models of developers, operators and companies like Twilio?

Any ideas?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Up your game

Using voice communication in online gaming is nothing new. Hardcore gamers have been doing this for years, but did you know that this is the key to making gaming social?

The gaming community is a strong one, with their own language, their own gear and a common way of life that isn’t always understood by everyone else. A community with members that don’t balk at spending serious money on virtual tanks has its own social norms and value system.

Since gaming is a form of entertainment based on sitting in front of your computer, miles if not countries apart, it should seem lonely and antisocial. The opposite couldn’t be truer with the addition of voice communications. It’s a social activity when you help each other out, show people tricks, compliment great moves and generally interact like you would when you are playing a soccer game.

Using a headset and talking to your fellow gamers is much more efficient than using chat – in fact, the time it takes to switch your concentration to chat can get you killed.

Team games benefit tremendously from an audio connection. You can talk through your strategy and plan a group attack. Not to mention the trash talk that you can let fly toward your opponents.

Mobile apps help gamers stay connected to the audio even when they are not playing so that they can jump into the action once they are in front of their computers again.

Overall, the gaming experience is better with voice and now the trend is for more and more games to go mobile.

To achieve the best user experience, operators, telecom vendors and game providers must all play the game.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Some reflections on messaging traffic this holiday season

Has messaging traffic saturated, or has it just changed its pattern? The blog Royal Pingdom observes there was less text messaging this Holiday Season, but not everywhere.

Source: Royal Pingdom blog

Are smartphone messaging apps threatening traditional SMS/MMS? Some believe Apple could kill the text message.

SMS traffic is still on a high level, however, it seems the increase rate may have started to subside in some markets.

Traffic is one thing - revenue is another.

So, where is the money? Is it with OTT players or with mobile operators? I would say it is still with the operators, but it cannot be taken for granted in the future.

What can be done to revitalize the messaging business?