The first SMS was sent 26 years ago

December 3 marks 26 years since the first SMS was sent. During this time, short text messages have gained enormous popularity around the world setting the standard in mobile text communication

They are also very widely used in Poland, with each domestic mobile user sending an average of 77 messages per month in 2017. However, Poles are far from the French, who send more than three times as many text messages. For each user in this country monthly there are. 242 text messages.

26 years ago, on December 3, 1992, Neil Papworth, an employee of the British network Vodafone sending Christmas wishes “Merry Christmas” to his colleagues, started a real revolution in communication. From the very beginning, there were few people who believed that short text messages would become one of the most popular forms of communication between people around the world. SMS were supposed to be used by operators only to inform customers about network failures or price list changes in the area of their home network. At the beginning SMS could be sent only within the network of one operator, only since 1999 messages can be sent between operators of different mobile networks. This resulted in a dynamic increase in the popularity of this form of communication, especially among teenagers.

Who sends the most text messages?

The number of SMS sent through Polish mobile networks has been falling systematically since 2012, however. At the time, the Office of Electronic Communications reported that more than 52.7 billion short text messages were sent in Polish networks. The “Report on the state of the telecommunications market in Poland in 2017” shows that last year Poles sent 49.2 billion short text messages, 2% less than 12 months earlier. Over the past 6 years, the number of messages sent has decreased by almost 3 billion.

Despite the decline, the number of sent SMS messages is still very high. According to UKE data, each Polish network user sent 77 messages per month in 2017. This is more than the average in the European Union, which is 59 short text messages. More text messages than Poles in the European Union last year were sent only by the French, Belgians, Slovenes, Norwegians, Lithuanians and Portuguese.

The role of text messaging is evolving, with more and more applications in marketing, e-commerce and the financial industry, among others. This SMS movement, referred to as A2P (application to person) continues to grow at a rate of 20-30 percent per year. A short text message is also very useful e.g. in crisis communication, when it is crucial to reliably reach a wide group of recipients, and therefore it is a solution more and more willingly implemented e.g. by municipal offices.

– During these 26 years, SMS has gained great popularity. Some people born in the 90s practically do not know the world without access to this service. They use it in a natural way, this gives a big advantage over mobile applications. Another reason for the success of the short message service is due to its universality. SMS messaging is independent of Internet access and reaches all recipients, including those in areas without mobile broadband networks. In this respect, it is a more reliable solution than mobile messaging. In addition, a text message can be sent to any mobile network user, regardless of the recipient’s device. This is a standard that no one in the field of mobile communication has managed to come even close to in recent years. – said Kamila Górna, Development Manager at Infobip.

What can one day replace SMS?

The reason for decrease in the number of sent SMS is still growing popularity of mobile communicators and social portals. However, there are indications that the position of applications such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger may be threatened by a new standard – RCS (Rich Communication Services), which is to be the technological successor to the old SMS. The work on its implementation involves dozens of telecommunications operators, manufacturers of mobile devices and suppliers of operating systems.

According to the GSMA, SMS is used worldwide every month by more than 4 billion people. To visualize the main advantage of text messaging over other communication solutions, it is worth comparing these numbers to the statistics of the most popular OTT apps e.g. such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which indicate more than one billion monthly active users. Skype and Snapchat are also far less popular than SMS.

– We are talking to several Polish operators. They all show interest in launching RCS p2p and a2p services and are considering different business models. I am convinced that RCS will appear in Poland in the near future, as there is a well-developed a2p market in which both mobile operators and brands see an opportunity to increase user convenience and accelerate digital transformation projects, the expert believes.

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