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Peak txt: 1.5 BEELLLION more chat app msgs sent than SMSes a day

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WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger and other online chat apps handled more messages than telcos handled texts, says market research biz Informa.

And by the end of 2013, the number of online messages will be double the number of SMS texts, leaving the phone network operators scrabbling for revenue.

Informa pegged 2012's global SMS traffic at 17.6 billion messages a day on average, while internet-based services averaged 19.1 billion mobile messages in the same year. The researchers reckon that trend will accelerate: internet messages should hit 41 billion a day by the year's end despite SMS having seven times as many users.

These numbers are all person-to-person messaging - count in the spam and automated systems that increasingly use SMS, and the numbers change. Punter-typed SMS texts make up a significant percentage of operator revenue; now, the service is being overtaken by internet rivals, both free and commercial.

Internet-using customers averaged 32.6 messages a day, according to Informa, while those paying by the message (using SMS) only managed five, so despite SMS being in the majority (3.5 billion users compared to the half billion who've installed smartphone apps to communicate) the volume of traffic has tipped against the Short Messaging Service.

A tipping which will only increase as smartphones proliferate and internet messaging extends into feature-phones, and their business models shake out. WhatsApp, the most popular dedicated service, manages to charge a dollar a year for unlimited messaging proving that customers will pay for a service they use.

Certainly they pay for SMS: when EE UK launched its 4G tariffs it revealed that 17 per cent of its revenue was coming from text messaging, 52 per cent from voice, and the rest from data despite this being the overwhelming majority of mobile network traffic. Any decline in messaging volumes will hit revenue hard.

Informa isn't predicting that: it expects an average of 19.5 billion SMS messages daily throughout 2013, but the transfer to internet services seems an unstoppable tide.

The death of SMS has been predicted for a decade at least, as instant-messaging services arrived, but for a long time the store-and-forward nature of SMS held sway. These days every messaging service offers to store messages until the recipient logs on so it's interoperability which is keeping SMS alive, although it's not something on which one would want to base 17 per cent of company revenue. ®

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