Global study: SMS messages will top 200 billion this year

More than 50 billion SMS (short message service) text messages were sent over GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) networks worldwide in the first quarter of 2001 -- more than five times as many as in the same period last year, according to the GSM Association.

          More than 50 billion SMS (short message service) text messages were sent over GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) networks worldwide in the first quarter of 2001 -- more than five times as many as in the same period last year, according to the GSM Association.

          The estimated 500 million GSM subscribers worldwide will send more than 200 billion SMS messages in 2001, the association said in a report released last week.

          The figures indicate that SMS, which is designed for sending plain text messages of 160 characters or less from one phone to another or from a PC to a phone, is more than holding its own against more glamorous mobile technologies such as WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) and 3G (third-generation).

          A number of factors are contributing to SMS's continuing success, according to the association. These include:

          • wide availability of GSM services and handsets
          • SMS roaming agreements between operators
          • competitive pricing and pre-paid SMS
          • increased use of SMS as a targeted marketing channel
          Use will continue to grow as multimedia content becomes available for bigger and better displays, and as security and privacy enhancements are introduced, according to the association.

          Growth is strong in both Europe and Asia, the GSM Association reported. In Germany, 6 billion SMS messages were sent in the first quarter, and in the UK, 3.5 billion were sent, with 900 million sent in April. In Asia, SMS use is growing rapidly in the Philippines, China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia, the association said.

          Faster transmission speeds over GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks will broaden the range of viable SMS applications and drive growth even higher, the association predicts.

          For example, Smart Communications in the Philippines has launched a reloadable payment card linked to a subscriber's cell phone for day-to-day retail purchases; the card can be topped up by debiting a personal bank account through an SMS mobile banking service.

          Major media companies such as Music Television and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) are tying their programs in with interactive message use, and global consumer brands such as Coca-Cola and Budweiser are also exploiting SMS, the association said.

          The GSM Association is a body made up of network operators, handset vendors and equipment suppliers that oversees the development of standards in GSM.

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