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March 25, 2010


Aune Ahmad Asad

very good input

amit nanda

Super post! So so glad that we (at cellzapp) are playing in the "not so sexy" SMS space!

Alexander Gödde

The question I ask myself is how much of SMS traffic is going to be replaced by instant messaging. While SMS is universal (i.e. all phones can do it), phones that are capable of running IM clients are getting more common, mobile data rate are becoming more affordable and widely adopted, and more and more people have IM accounts.
The advantages here are the fact that there are no charges per message, no additional charges at all if you already have a mobile data plan (the data volume being so low as to be almost negligible with most plans) and the fact that IM is cross-platform. It is much faster and easier to carry on a messaging conversation via IM between computers, using a full keyboard, and when I'm on the road I can carry on within the same medium. Additionally group chats and sending file attachments are functions that SMS cannot provide.

Romain Criton

many people have predicted the death of SMS because of IM, and we're still waiting for the messaging doomsday... When you say that SMS is universal, it is not only universal in the sense that all phones can send and receive it, but it is also universal in the sense that you can communicate with anyone regardless of their phone plan and operator. IM, on the other hand, is fragmented and you're basically limited to the protocol you've chosen (yes there are multi-protocol IM clients but they're not widespread on mobile phones). Also keep in mind that even if smartphone are growing quickly, they still only account for a rather small portion of the installed base. Regarding the price of SMS, many carriers are offering "unlimited SMS" plans, so in that case the price advantage of IM over SMS vanishes.

I'm really puzzled by those figures that clearly prove the success of MMS, because I talked several times with a leading mobile messaging company (providing bulk message sending and receiving) and even very recently they dismissed the MMS opportunity, saying that the deliverability of MMS was too low because very often cellphones are not correctly configured to properly receive MMS, and users don't know how to configure this.
So maybe there's a difference in MMS adoption rate between Western countries and the rest of the World ? Or "developed" countries vs. "developing" ? I'm sure you have the breakdown of the figures per world regions, would be interesting to know if it is homogeneous or if there are differences.


Tomi, good article.

I have been reading through your blog for a while and I know you are a big proponent of SMS and MMS technology. Like you said, numbers do not lie. (but it can misdirect)

While it's true that in the next 5 years, SMS will still get used by some developing countries, most of the world will use the mobile internet instead. IM/VOIP/mobile web are clearly things we're moving forward to, and it's not a fad.

Eventually, every mobile phone will become a mini-computer that has a phone function. A Smartphone is the proof of this trend. And voice will become just a data sent through the pipe, under one common protocol. I mean just looking at a technical perspective, TCP/IP is much more capable than SMS/MMS -- especially in the coming 3G/4G era. Don't you think so?

@Romain I agree with your response to Tomi.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Aune, amit, Alexander, Romain and simpleblob

Thank you all for the comments. I'll reply to each individually.

Aune - thanks.

amit - thanks, and please let us know how your life is going there at cellzapp. When you launch something cool in this space, will be happy to celebrate it with our readers.

Alexander - good point. You have already part of 'my' answer in Romain's reply to you. I totally agree with it. Let me add to it a bit more. I am certain that IM will continue to grow and get ever more users. There are many reasons why already addicted mobile messaging users will love IM - so of SMS is 'cocaine' as a drug, IM is even more of a hard drug like 'heroin' or 'crack cocaine' in my analogy. But note Alexander that IM and SMS are not totally overlapping. There is overlap yes, but there are plenty of situations where SMS is the only way to deliver a given person-to-person communication. But beyond that, remember SMS is now becoming a business communciation tool - you can't really seem very 'professional' if you suddenly ask your business affiliate to 'switch' from SMS to using 'your' IM solution. That sounds very cheesy, not good for business. And beyond that, we have all the premioum SMS stuff, from media to alerts.

So yes, IM is already taking users, typical example is Blackberry's messenger that is winning the youth over from Britain to the Philippines and from Canada to Botswana. Really, am not kidding. Blackberry is the best-selling phone - not bestselling smartphone - in Venezuela for example, to a very great degree due to the BB instant messenger. But that won't kill the SMS opportunity. SMS will continue to grow for many years to come, in users, in traffic and in revenues. Then it will gradually plateaou off and probably over the longer run turn into a gradual decline. But we're at a 200 B dollar industry before that starts to happen haha. Mark my words. SMS is not starting to decline any time soon.

Romain - thanks for the response to Alexander. You wrote as if it was me talking, haha.. Hey, about MMS and your 'provider' haha. Is it possible that they don't currently support MMS. So they have perhaps a 'bias' in their view about MMS and perhaps prefer an alternate messaging solution like say SMS or email etc? That would explain their mysterious view. Or else, yes, there are still great differences between countries, markets, operators, and various middle-men. In China they really do say that MMS is a 'mature' platform, and in Norway its nearing SMS user numbers. But the key is not person-to-person MMS where so much of the confusion lies. Its in Application-to-person (A2P) traffic, in particular the media related solutions like I discuss. A great example was Blyk in the UK, almost single-handedly teaching the European ad indsutry that not only was mobile the perfect media to deliver 'engagement marketing' - the optimized solution to do engagement marketing is MMS.

simplebob - I hear you. And I agree with part of what you say, but your time horizon is far too optimistic. Remember that we can't take the current iPhone 'mobile internet' stats and project from those. We do have to take user stat in handset adoption and service adoption. It is a fact, that smartphones account for only 13% of the planet. Even in Western Europe smartphones are under a third of all phones in use. And of those, many are not used 'like' a smartphone - ie a given person walks into a Vodafone store, wants the best Nokia and doesn't care if thats a Smartphone or not. Has a smartphone, may even have a data plan, and uses it as a cool, expensive and 'luxurious' perhaps status-oriented phone. Won't do internet surfing on it. Apple iPhone users are totally a different breed and there is a good reason why they produce totally different type of traffic.

Now, you say SMS will be used 'in some developing countries' but most of world will use mobile internet instead. This I can promise you is not going to be true in the next 5 years. In the most mad 'mobile internet' crazy smartphone market in the world - the USA - the biggest growth is in SMS text messaging. The texting revlution has only started in the USA, and will grow far far bigger than what it is today. Parking? They're only trialling parking paymnets by SMS. Charities, only learned now with the Haiti situation etc. Airline check in, only half of US airlines even use it. Etc etc etc. Only about two thirds of US citizens use SMS at this point. It will grow to be FAR bigger than it is currently.

In Europe the consumers are far more mature about mobile, so the transition 'past' SMS will start to happen in Europe probably before the US. Obviously the most advanced markets, Japan and South Korea are there already. They had their messsaging boom and now have their mobile internet boom. So yes, we agree on the general direction, but we're looking at a decade, not 5 years, in the scale. And don't think SMS will vanish. It is addictive. There are so many things we can't do any other way, not even on IM. How do you wake up your kids with IM? Can't be done. They have to be in the IM solution but then they can't fall asleep because of the constant IM updates. No, SMS is not vanishing. But yes, today SMS is 'over' emphasized in especially the European market and the mobile services environment is under-represented. That balance will shift yes. But the US and Canada - far bigger growth there in SMS than in the 'real internet' on phones. Mark my words. And I have been here for 5 years to stand by all my predictions in all 9 of my books. I have taken full ownership of every time facts have caused me to change my mind. But take my book m-Profits and see how accurate I've been. I rarely am off when its mobile related projections and predicitons. But yes, I'll be here, so please come back in 2015 and lets look at your projection at that time.

By the way, that 'every phone will become mini-computer' is also familiar territory and I've explained it in many chapters and often on this blog. Please google this site for my 30 minutes / 30 seconds metaphor - it will help you understand why the phone cannot kill off the PC opportunity. Both will co-exist. Again, I've had a decade to think about these things and argue and debate with so many of the big minds in this industry. I am confident that both will co-exist.

But yes, voice is obviously just another data solution, many carriers/operators already today do voice as a VOIP solution in their networks (but not offering it as something like Skype haha). So yeah, we agree on that.

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Well, you lost the credibility of your report by citing India is a poor country. You have a long way to go before you can write about the telecom landscape in India.

Robert Sanchez

Another great article on the exponential growth and adoption of SMS, thanks Tomi!!! The potential uses for SMS are truly astonishing, with such worldwide market penetration, SMS has the opportunity to benefit everything from emergency communications to personal notifications to targeted marketing and beyond. At Globaltel Media we have seen a wide variety of markets become interested in utilizing this universal mobile technology, from our brands that implement mobile marketing campaigns to our healthcare customers that use SMS for both appointment logistics and mobile diagnostics. Thanks again for the great article, we look for SMS to continue to grow!


Thank you Tomi,

Dont suppose you can provide a blog entry on how companies can make money off MMS? I have read your blog for awhile and have seen some examples like the BMW one but wondering if there are other ways to do it via response?

Just getting my feet wet in mobile and trying to find the best methods.

Thank you,


Hi Tomi,Your insights really helped me while doing a paper for my college work. Hope it's alright that I quoted parts of your blog on your thoughts about sms.


Alexander - good point. You have already part of 'my' answer in Romain's reply to you. I totally agree with it. Let me add to it a bit more. I am certain that IM will continue to grow and get ever more users. There are many reasons why already addicted mobile messaging users will love IM - so of SMS is 'cocaine' as a drug, IM is even more of a hard drug like 'heroin' or 'crack cocaine' in my analogy. But note Alexander that IM and SMS are not totally overlapping. There is overlap yes, but there are plenty of situations where SMS is the only way to deliver a given person-to-person communication. But beyond that, remember SMS is now becoming a business communciation tool - you can't really seem very 'professional' if you suddenly ask your business affiliate to 'switch' from SMS to using 'your' IM solution. That sounds very cheesy, not good for business. And beyond that, we have all the premioum SMS stuff, from media to alerts.

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    Tomi Ahonen is a bestselling author whose twelve books on mobile have already been referenced in over 100 books by his peers. Rated the most influential expert in mobile by Forbes in December 2011, Tomi speaks regularly at conferences doing about 20 public speakerships annually. With over 250 public speaking engagements, Tomi been seen by a cumulative audience of over 100,000 people on all six inhabited continents. The former Nokia executive has run a consulting practise on digital convergence, interactive media, engagement marketing, high tech and next generation mobile. Tomi is currently based out of Helsinki but supports Fortune 500 sized companies across the globe. His reference client list includes Axiata, Bank of America, BBC, BNP Paribas, China Mobile, Emap, Ericsson, Google, Hewlett-Packard, HSBC, IBM, Intel, LG, MTS, Nokia, NTT DoCoMo, Ogilvy, Orange, RIM, Sanomamedia, Telenor, TeliaSonera, Three, Tigo, Vodafone, etc. To see his full bio and his books, visit Tomi Ahonen lectures at Oxford University's short courses on next generation mobile and digital convergence. Follow him on Twitter as @tomiahonen. Tomi also has a Facebook and Linked In page under his own name. He is available for consulting, speaking engagements and as expert witness, please write to tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

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