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IM to drive doubling of mobile messaging traffic

A new report from analyst firm Juniper Research forecasts that global mobile messaging traffic will reach 28.2 trillion annually by 2017, nearly double the 14.7 trillion messages which will be sent this year, 2012. Mobile messages comprise SMS, MMS, IM, Email, RCS/RCS-e and Social Media messages.

Growth in total traffic will be primarily driven by the use of instant messaging services, which will comprise over a quarter of all traffic annually in five years’ time according to Juniper’s analysts.

So-called OTT (Over-the-Top) services such as eBuddy, iMessage, Nimbuzz and Whatsapp are already having an impact on mobile network operators’ messaging businesses, as smartphone owners find instant messaging a cheaper alternative. Until recently, most smartphone owners would have had contract subscriptions with ample messaging allowances, but with the cost of these devices falling, more and more price-conscious prepaid subscribers will be able to access these services.

Nevertheless, Juniper’s forecasts show that revenues from traditional operator services – SMS and MMS – will continue to dwarf those of instant messaging. Many IM services are operated by hardware vendors and Internet brands driving consumers to their primary products, while those that are monetised directly are reliant on in-app advertising.

Aside from finding more sustainable business models, some IM service providers also need be concerned with overcoming fragmentation between communities. According to report co-author Daniel Ashdown: “SMS is 30 years old; but it is still going strong because a text message will reach almost anyone.”

Juniper’s report finds that some OTT players are overcoming this problem, with NUVOs (Network Unaffiliated Virtual Operators), who provide their users with a real phone number, such as Pinger and textPlus having been successful in the North American markets.

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