Technology Journalist and Copywriter

Kate O'Flaherty


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By kateoflaherty, Dec 3 2012 12:07PM

The text message is dead. Well, maybe not dead - it is certainly on its way out.

It comes as the text message celebrates its 20th birthday today, after the first SMS was sent in 1992 saying "Merry Christmas" (a bit early, really) to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

And as telecoms regulator Ofcom's press release this morning states, texting was to become a huge phenomenon. To throw some figures out there, the average UK consumer now sends around 50 text messages every week and in 2011, more than 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK.

The young have always been the most prolific texters. However, social networks and other forms of messaging such as Skype, RIM's BBM and Whatsapp are now eating into the SMS, and volumes have started to decline after reaching a peak at the end of last year.

Technology is moving on. Mobile networks don't make money from SMS - they are facing an eternal struggle to make money from voice instead. At the same time, data has earned itself a premium and pricing is often confusing, ending in hefty fines for consumers.

Many of the young generation have a data-enabled smartphone (four in 10 of all consumers, according to Ofcom's figures) and tablets are growing in popularity. Meanwhile, data hungry consumers are using 3G, or 4G if they are lucky, as messaging becomes more sophisticated and multimedia.

The smallest network Three has the right idea, offering unlimited 3G data packages, but EE last week reduced the rates on its new 4G tariffs after an outcry over prices. The other networks will certainly be busy preparing their own 4G rates for launch next year learning from the mistakes of their rival.

So as the text message celebrates its birthday, the mobile networks must be thinking they have a much bigger issue on their hands. Data is the new text message, and the next 20 years will see an entirely new revolution.

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