It seems that the telecom industry has gotten into the habit of making sweeping assertions, with pronouncements like “SMS is dead!“ filling the headlines. However, the latest figures from CTIA’s Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey illustrate that this is far from the case. U.S. subscribers sent 193 billion text messages every month last year, according to the latest figures from CTIA, for a total of 2.3 trillion messages in 2011. Clearly this technology is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
Likewise, there have been many accusations of MMS failing to live up to initial expectations. Yet CTIA tells us that for the 12-month period ending June 30, MMS grew 9.4 percent, reaching 58 billion messages sent by U.S. subscribers.
Contrast those figures with a recent report by Ovum, which proclaims that globally, operators will lose $54 billion in SMS revenues by 2016 to over-the-top messaging (OTT) services. In fact, it estimates that operators will already have lost $23 billion to OTT services by the end of this year as OTTs disrupt traditional messaging activities and new communication patterns evolve among subscribers.
Though these statistics seem somewhat contradictory, here’s what we know for certain: SMS may lack the bells and whistles of newly developed OTT messaging options, but it has enjoyed success because it is universally available, offers high quality of service, and is easy to use. MMS has enjoyed the same ubiquity as interoperability issues have been resolved and handset sophistication has increased. Subscribers are certainly not going to abandon these tried and true services anytime soon, meaning that operators will continue to include both SMS and MMS as important components of their core service offerings.
However, with OTT services likely to impact operators’ traditional SMS and MMS revenues over time, it’s important for operators to secure subscriber loyalty in the face of this new source of competition. Ovum’s research highlights the need for operators to provide new services that can meet subscriber demand for next-generation features like video calling, file sharing, and group chat—and cites the importance of industry-wide collaboration as operators turn to Rich Communication Suite (RCS) to do so. Like the operator-provided messaging services preceding it, RCS has the same advantages of ubiquity and quality of service that OTT players simply cannot match. It is these benefits that will no doubt ensure the success of RCS as the communication environment evolves.