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.

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