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Text message celebrates 20th birthday

03 Dec 2012
SMS message

The text message is celebrating its 20th birthday today, although SMS over mobile networks looks to have passed its peak.

The first ever text message, or short message service (SMS) was sent on 3 December 1992. The message was sent by a 22-year-old British engineer to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone, and read "Merry Christmas". This sparked a revolution in the way people communicated, with a whopping 150 billion text messages being sent in 2011.

However, as the humble SMS turns 20, it looks like the text message might be past its prime. Ofcom has revealed that text messaging saw its first decline in the first half of 2012. SMS messages in the UK fell to 38.5 billion in the second quarter, down from 39.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

This is probably down to services such as WhatsApp and iMessage, which allow users to send free instant messages over internet connections. As more and more internet connected devices arrive in the hands of consumers, this decline is likely to accelerate.

"When texting was first conceived many saw it as nothing more than a niche service. But texts have now surpassed traditional phone calls and meeting face to face as the most frequent way of keeping in touch for UK adults, revolutionising the way we socialise, work and network," Ofcom director of research James Thickett said.

"For the first time in the history of mobile phones, SMS volumes are showing signs of decline. However the availability of a wider range of communications tools like instant messaging and social networking sites mean that people might be sending fewer SMS messages, but they are 'texting' more than ever before."

Informa analysts also predict that the popularity of texting will increase going forwards, and said SMS is still reporting healthy figures around the globe.

Informa forecasts that global text traffic will increase to 6.7 trillion messages in 2012, representing a year-on-year increase of 13.6 percent, up from 5.9 trillion messages in 2011. By 2016, traffic will total 9.4 trillion messages, and generate $127bn in revenues.

Happy birthday, txt msging :-).

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Carly Page

Carly Page joined The INQUIRER as News Editor in April 2012. Before becoming a full-time geek, Carly studied Journalism at the University of Lincoln, and dabbled in the music journalism industry. Carly's main coverage areas include mobile devices, mobile software, telecoms, mobile operators, social networks and anything Breaking Bad related.

View Carly's Google+ profile


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