It has become the preferred communication medium for an entire generation and a veritable cash cow for mobile operators, but according to the numbers, the popularity of the ubiquitous text message may actually be on the decline.
More to the point, while many see tech giants Apple and Google presenting the greatest respective threats to the current revenue streams of the world’s mobile operators, it seems that many have underestimated the power of Facebook in the mobile sphere, as the social networking giant is quietly establishing itself as a dominant player and more time on Facebook means less time text messaging.
According to telecommunications research firm Stand Consult, operators are steadily losing SMS customers to the social network, meaning that while those customers are still buying smartphones and signing contracts, they are avoiding what has to this point been the largest revenue stream for carriers, which begs the question, how do you solve a problem like Facebook?
As the numbers game goes, figuring out the deleterious effect Facebook is having on SMS traffic is as simple and straightforward as it gets: The more time smartphone users spend accessing Facebook on their smartphone, the less time they have to fire off inane texts to one another.
According to Stand Consult, of the some 800 million people globally who access Facebook, just over half (some 425 million) access the social network from their mobile devices. In fact, measuring by minutes of use Facebook, “probably transports more mobile traffic, number of messages and time spent online than the world’s largest operator.”
Truthfully, this news comes as little surprise to me, given the fact that Facebook has become an effective way for people to communicate with all of their contacts, be it family, friends, business contacts, or customers. For people that want or need to remain constantly connected, the text message simply doesn’t suffice; they need the comprehensive social network that Facebook provides.
The conclusion, carriers much change their SMS strategy or risk losing a valuable revenue stream, something carriers here in North America did ages ago. As with most studies in the telecom and tech worlds, this study from Stand Consult requires a little interpretation, as while I can’t argue with the findings that time on Facebook deters users from texting, the situation is much less dire for carriers here in North America.
The fact of the matter is that many of us simply don’t pay separately for SMS capability anymore, with operators bundling unlimited texting into comprehensive rate plans wherein it seems to most users that texting is simply a free feature on their smartphone. That means that regardless of how much time you spend text messaging, you’re still paying for the service. Should interest in text messaging decline to the point where subscribers actually want to stop paying for it, well that will certainly be another story.