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December 10, 2008


Cellular Motorola Philippine Phone

Hey, this is pretty good stuff! Although this is my first visit here, I find your blog and your posts very insightful. Keep up the good work.

Arrielle Green



Very interesting statistics. We would love to get a copy of your report. Please send a copy to me at [email protected].

You might also be interested to see our website at, our blog at and our videos at

We have been promoting mobile phone banking and mobile payments for low income households in the Philippines for four years and have seen the transactions triple almost every year since 2005.

Feel free to link to our website, blog, or youtube videos.


Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Arrielle and John

Thank you for the comments.

Arrielle - happy to have you visit us and hope you'll return many times more. We focus on the "communities dominate" space on this blog, so its about digital convergence, user-participation and new media here. Mobile is an increasingly important part, but not the only topic at this blog, we also focus on broadband internet, multiplayer gaming, blogging, virtual worlds, etc.

I have a parallel blog that focuses only on mobile, at and you might check out that as well.

John - thanks, good links. Yes, the Philippines is one of the surprising leadership countries, in areas such as SMS use, mobile banking and also for example social networking. I keep telling colleagues around the world to keep an eye on the Philippines, a very advanced market and one that is often under the radar of many observing this industry.

Thank you both for writing

Tomi Ahonen

Giff Gfroerer, i2SMS


You mention the Obama SMS campaign's use of SMS. For the announcement of his VP choice, it is believed over 2.9 messages went out... That surely must be some kind of a record. It was here in the States.

As for U.S. adoption, Nielsen estimates 57% of US subscribers over the age of 13 text, and the average US subscription sends 357 SMS messages/month versus 209 calls.

It is here.


Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Giff

Good comments. Ha-ha, yeah, 57% of all subscribers. I'm sure its big news in the USA.. but the world reached that level in.. in... in..... 2003. Haha. Yeah, I am happy the USA is finally discovering SMS, but it has been a very long time coming

I also find it quaint that Nielsen bothers to say "over the age of 13".. Mobile phone ownership is creeping down the age and 7-8-9 year olds get phones now. Why stop the interviews at age 13. Why not simply say "out of all subscribers" and include a couple of pre-teens in the interview sample ha-ha..

About the Obama campaign. I have heard it time and again, I think it is even more noticed by the mainstream US industry than American Idol voting has been (even though they had ten times the reach ha-ha). Perhaps it traces to the iPhone - after the launch of the iPhone in June 2007, the US industry has been willing to see solutions built onto cellphones. Prior to the iPhone they seemed to be blind to the cellphone.

But you are very correct in the summary - yes, the USA has now warmed to SMS and very rapidly is discovering that - a) it is far better to send an SMS than to leave voicemail (so voicemail can start to die off in America as it has slowly been ending its life in the rest of the world) - that b) SMS is the fastest way to communicate (hence already the bigger use of SMS than voice calls on cellphones) and c) - SMS is the most discrete way to communicate.

Then Reachability kicks in ha-ha - that is what is really driving the SMS addiction and we saw it much more in the Obama Campaign than in American Idol - and now you HAVE to carry your cellphone everywhere (including the bathroom and bedroom) simply because you need to be reachable when that one really important message arrives ha-ha..

Yeah, don't think SMS will slow down in America. It will grow really much now, that you're past the 50% level. email, its so last decade..

And your company i2SMS, Giff, is in the right place to help your customers capitalize on this opportunity.


Tomi :-)


From my experience with teenagers on the mobile operator i worked for, they send a ratio of 2.5 SMS per 1 call. This is supported by 3 full years of call data.

Henry Sinnreich

Great source for numbers and very credible!
As for the trend, here is another perspective:
There is only one service. It is called the Internet.
Wireless will become just another wire into the Internet and mobile messaging will be just another Internet application, possibly free, just as Skype IM. The issue is not if, but only when and how. It will be interesting to watch the evaporation of SMS revenue and the struggle to hold on to it. Remember Fax? Oh yes, it is still around somewhere...

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Edu and Henry

Thank you for the comments. I'll respond to both individually

Edu - great point, and I've seen very similar findings globally, the pattern holds. For example in the UK there were numbers that the youth average 2 minutes of voice calls per day, but six SMS text messages sent. Very similar to your numbers.

Henry - good point. And let me start by saying that this is a debate that has raged for this whole decade and I've been involved personally with it for a decade already back from when I was employed by Nokia and I wrote their first White Paper that discussed how to deploy the internet on mobile networks, which is literally ten years ago next month ha-ha.. Funny how times flies.

But yes, I've seen the arguments, and there are strongly held views on both sides. Note that I started my career at the first Internet Service Provider in New York, and then worked in the telecoms convergence of one of Finland's two incumbents, and then at Nokia's digital convergence unit, so I've been at this for a very long time and seen the industry from the inside from all sides..

With that, I've discussed the "one internet" and the "mobile internet" literally hundreds of times on all six inhabited continents with some of the best minds in the business from both sides of the aisle.

I have also published my views in my books so this is no surprise, I am of the mind, that the internet is the sixth mass media channel, a unique service creation environment and media channel and communication channel and commercial environment and delivery platform. But it is the sixth (Print, Recordings, Cinema, Radio and TV are the first five mass media).

Mobile is NOT the simple crippled tiny cousin of the internet. The phone is also not the complete "end-state" for the internet experience. Mobile is the seventh mass media channel (and a communciation channel, commercial environment, delivery platform - but also what the internet cannot be, mobile is a payment channel. By this I mean, unless you subscribe to Paypal or give a credit card, the internet cannot - as it currently exists - handle payments in its native form; mobile can, and it is only up to the individual operator - and the local banking regulations, if that is done. 20% of all banking accounts in Kenya are on phones and these are basic phones with SMS and at best, WAP).

Anyway, the "mobile internet" will seem much like the existing internet, much like television seems like the cinema or listening to hit songs on the radio seemed like listening to your records (recordings).

But mobile has seven unique benefits that the internet does not have (we discuss them many times on this blog and for example in my newest book).

So, yes, you can bring the "legacy internet" onto a phone, like surfing the "real internet" on an iPhone. Yes, this can be done, and yes, it can be a nice thing for "internet users".

That is not the same as the mobile internet. The mobile internet has far more revenues out of content and services than the internet, already today in 2008. Services that cannot (in their current form) be deployed on the internet. SMS text messaging (and yes, I now there are work-arounds to allow sending of SMS from email, and delivering SMS to email, but this is a work-around, not implementing SMS on the internet). SMS alone is worth 100 billion dollars. more than all paid messaging revenues, all paid content and advertising revenues on the internet.

Thats just SMS. Then how about ringing tones? Ringback tones? You can't do those on the internet. Music sold to mobile phones is 5 times bigger than the total iTunes and all other such online music sales.

This is what I mean. Yes, what you say is kind of true, yes, there is an internet (tiny industry) which desperately wants to get into our pockets (Google CEO says the internet will be on mobile, Yahoo CEO says the internet will be on mobile, Apple removed "computer" from their corporate name to get into mobile with the iPhone etc).

But that is peanuts. The FAR bigger industry is the mobile data services industry, which is very healthy, wealthy and wise. They have far better services than the internet - look at SeeMeTV - where the average creator of a video - average creator - earns 27 dollars out of his video when it is viewed by other members of SeeMeTV. You can't do that on YouTube on the internet (in a practically commercially viable way, today). This can only be done on the mobile internet.

So yes, I hear you, but I am convinced of my view. I think I will be posting about this soon, to give a more thoughtful and complete view, to explain it better. But I think you can see from the above, that I have plenty of evidence to support my view and it comes after two decades in the internet business and over a decade in mobile and literally a decade in the "mobile internet" industry as a published thought-leader and commentator..

It doesn't mean I am right. I know the countering view has lots of support. But I'll return to this at the blog and give a more considered commentary. Obviously this view is for example in my new book in the mobile internet chapter... I like to say, that to put the "real internet" onto a phone, is as futile as putting a real horse into a car for horsepower.. Yes you can do it, but it really brings no inherent value, when you have a far more powerful engine to begin with..

Thank you for writing, both of you.

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Tomi T Ahonen

PS - Henry about SMS

Hey, sorry Henry, you specifically talked about SMS and I should respond to that explicitly.

I have heard this "SMS will be cannibalized" stuff for a decade too. And that the Blackberry will eat its cake and that instant messaging and chat will kill SMS and free SMS providers will appear and unified messaging will kill it, and mobile instant messaging will end SMS etc.

It might happen on a very long time horizon. But currently, all signs, in every single market on the planet, is that SMS is growing in usage and users and revenues.

The reason for that is that SMS is addictive. Proven to be addictive in university studies from Belgium to Australia. In fact, proven to be the most addictive major communication service (more than email, more than voice calls) and AS ADDICTIVE as cigarette smoking.

The other reason is that there is something called Reachability - I discussed it first in my second book M-Profits. Our addiction is not born from a need to send other people messages, it comes from the need to be able to be reached. We cannot anticipate when something important happens to one of our friends or colleagues, but having the mobile phone with us 24 hours a day, and having SMS - which can reach us even when we cannot talk - is the biggest key to Reachability. Since the, the Blackberry - to older users - has achieved similar dependency and for the same reason, not for the calls, but the emails.

Blackberry is a mild drug. The heavy drug is SMS. So your argument, that it will go away is not so likely.

Note that on the internet anyone can put up a rival service. On mobile - nobody can place a rival service onto your phone, if your network operator decides they don't want it. Nobody can. It is a licensed spectrum and a small number of carriers/operators who are licensed to use the spectrum. the networks cost a billion dollars - per piece - put that into context with broadcast technologies or internet infrastructure costs - the global 3G telecoms network upgrade was the most expensive infrastructure investment in mankind's history. This industry is well protected by an oligopolistic market place and by limits of spectrum availability. The mobile operators/carriers earn about half of their total profits out of SMS text messaging - yes, more profits from SMS than voice calls even though voice calls consist of 75% of total revenues. They will guard SMS profit margins jealously.

I have seen many a business idea launched - and failed - on the idea of cannibalizing SMS. So far no winners. Not that it can't be done, only that it is unlikely to succeed in most markets in the near to mid term.

The internet coming to take over the mobile data market space. I don't think so...


Tomi :-)

Jagdish Nailwal

It was a pleasure to visit your blog, as it was referred to me by one of my respective Friend. Blog is very very interesting and very informative ..

I work with a 3rd Party Logistics Company in India. and my focus area is Telecommunication and i am sure, with all its facts and figures, it will help me out to work on my field very informatively.
Kindly send me the detailed report which you have mentioned about.
My email address is [email protected]

best regards

Jagdish Nailwal.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Jagdish

Thank you for the kind comments. I sent you the report.

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Gokhan Dogan

Great post !
Regarding the dot-mobi domains; a lot of companies -including Verizon- think that it is a waste of time. What is your opinion on that ? Will that bird fly ?

3G will be available in Turkey soon and I predict that the mobile internet usage will boom as Turkish population has an average age of 28 and there are still lots of things to do. I believe it is an untapped market. Look how Vallimo and Turkcell cooperated and became one of the most successful "mobile signature" projects in the world. As Finland and Sweden has the years of 3G experience, I think they can bring a lot of value to Turkey and of course take-away a lot of money :)

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Gokhan

Thank you for the comments and very good points.

First on Dot Mobi and "a lot of companies including Verizon". So let me go into my "Anti-America rant once again." America is the laggard in mobile. Generally they totally don't understand this industry and make silly comments and statements and actions - ranging from Sprint firing 1,000 customers "for complaining too much" while the network was America's worst company by customer satisfaction, not just worst telecoms company, worst overall.. (and this moronic action of punishing customers when your own processes make you that bad, resulted in the CEO being fired in the next quarter and the chief marketing officer fired by the new CEO). Or that AT&T raised the costs of SMS where Americans already pay the worlds' highest rates per SMS (as they are among the very few countries where both sending messages, and RECEIVING messages, yes all domestic inbound SMS too - are charged to the customers)..

I track the industry and have found that North America generally, USA and Canada, have lagged typical European countries by 4 years. That has now improved in the past few years and now the USA has caught up with the tail-end of Europe, roughly on par with say France, Belgium and Greece, that kind of markets. Still a year behind the UK, and three years behind Japan..

So if any of the "a lot of companies" in addition to Verizon are based in North America, I would not put much weight to their "considered opinion" ha-ha..

It does not mean that Europeans (or Asians) are always right and Americans always wrong, but generally, the most insightful thought-leadership tends to come from the countries which are the leading edge of a given industry. We don't go to study rocket science in Zimbabwe, for example (with all due apologies to any rocket scientists who happen to be Zimbabweans..)

But there also no doubt are many companies and experts who doubt the Dot Mobi concept, regardless of their geographic location. And even Americans can get it right, so lets get to the main point.

I think there are two issues embedded within your question. The first is that a "mobile web" experience is distinctly different from an "worldwide web" ie legacy internet and PC based experience. I write about this for a whole chapter in my newest book, Mobile as 7th of the Mass Media, so I go through for example the "30 minute and 30 second" metaphor. In that I show that most PC tasks - ie typical legacy internet tasks - are ones we "plan for" and spend about half an hour or more to do. We do it sitting down, and want a good keyboard, mouse, and good big screen. A PC environment.

On mobile we do 30 second tasks. These come suddenly, urgently to our pocket. We deal with them on the spot, not planning time "to get back to it". We do the 30 second tasks often standing or walking. We do it single-handed using only a keypad, with something heavy in our other hand, our briefcase or our grocery shopping our the steering wheel of our car, or the hand of our child as we cross the street, etc.

The whole experience of "surfing" is different on mobile. We don't pay full attention as we very often are multitasking with the real world or other media, while we deal with the phone. We may be watching TV for example, or be online with our PC, sending an email, when an urgent SMS arrives on our phone and we deal with that on the spot with the phone.

So part of the philosophy that Dot Mobi has been pushing globally and I think quite successfully, is to expand the knowhow and insights into what is needed for a successful mobile web experience. You can't just copy the internet and try to squeeze that to an iPhone and hope for success. It may work - some websites by accident do - but most don't. It takes a lot of customization, that a familiar looking site is still mobile-optimized. Flirtomatic is a great example of that. It is clearly Flirtomatic both online and on mobile, yet the mobile experience is truly optimized for 30 second tasks and has consequently 8 times more activity per Flirtomatic member, than the online variant.

So is the Dot Mobi "philosophy" useful, needed, will it fly? I think certainly yes.

Now, do we specifically need a "dot mobi" ie .mobi domain for our brands? I do personally think it is a good idea, and for any significant global brand (any consumer brand that tracks its brand awareness internationally) including all the Nikes and Adidases and Cocacolas and Pepsis and BMWs and Toytas and Levis and Armanis etc etc etc. I think it would be very short-sighted of them not to get a dot mobi site (and risk that someone else gets that site).

But yes, it can also be done with other domain naming standards, so its not the only way to signal a mobile optimized site. I would not think of it as an absolute dichotomy, an either-or situation, I think most major brands should use several domains to point to their mobile-optimized sites.

The relevant stat is that last year for the first time, more than half of all browser-based web surfing, came from mobile, not from a PC. While the majority of those users are in Asia today, this is a global trend and even in America the transition is past the 20% point and Europe is nearing 40% of all web surfing coming from mobile. So all brands should train their web designers for mobile, and start to prepare for the day, when their website default page is mobile, and the PC (large format) page is an option; much like web paged started to add international language editions early on and today most international brands let you switch languages on the front page, and it takes the default language based on the IP address of where you arrive from..

Now, about Turkey. Yes, a great opportunity. We've been waiting for several large markets to join in 3G - China, India and yes, Turkey among the big population countries still missing. It will be a great expansion opportunity, and as it is one of the first countries to go 3G in the era after the iPhone, I think the whole expectation of mobile content and mobile web surfing will be dramatically different from what the early assumptions were for 3G back in 2000 or so when most early European markets were planning for their 3G launches (which then were delayed till 2003, but thats another story).

Thanks for the comments

Tomi Ahonen :-)

Vincent Dekker

Hi Tomi,
Very, very interesting indeed! I've written about it on my blog, see: (alas, in Dutch...) Now that I'm writing a bigger piece for the paper version of the newspaper Trouw, I'm wondering if you can tell me whether mobile and landline telecom combined add up to 1.6 trillion dollars (you mention mobile voice with 600 billion being bigger than fixed landline telecoms)? And is mobile and landline telecom combined a bigger industry than food and armaments? And thus the biggest industry in the world? Thanks for all your insights!
Vincent Dekker, journalist writing for the Dutch daily Trouw.

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Vincent

Hey, I have to stop by at and practise on my very rusty Dutch ha-ha, I can barely read it by guessing half ha-ha...

Great story you are on and good guess on the combined size, yes. Actually about 1.8 Trillion, because mobile is worth 1B, fixed telecoms about 550 B and the internet industry worth about 250 B

Bigger than armaments and defense, yes, but not bigger than food, which is several billion in total size. But the media industries combined (TV, radio, print, cinema, videogaming - and internet) combined are about 1.7 billion, so yeah, telecoms when taken all together, is just now becoming bigger than all media indsustries put together..

Vincent, also please write to me at my email, and I'll discuss with you more there. My email is tomi (at) tomiahonen (dot) com

Tomi :-)


Hi Tomi,
How are you? Thanks for the numbers included in your article. I have a question for you however. In your article from 1-8-2007 you give the same numbers of credit cards, TVs, telephones penetration and other as in this one - which is a year later! Does that mean that nobody got TV sets in 2008 or did you just not research the stats for 2008?

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Joanna

Ha-ha, thought you'd catch me out? Actually if you go to that 2007 January posting - it is permalinked at this address:

You'll find that I have adjusted almost all numbers. So if we ignore the mobile numbers, the credit cards went up from 1.4 to 1.7 billion, the number of fixed landline phones is coming down from 1.3 billion, the PC number is up from 850 million to 1 billion and the number of internet users up from 1.1 billion to 1.4 billion. I have adjusted the numbers. Except for TV. TV did grow, but since that posting, I found newer and better ITU data which for 2007 said 1.3 billion TV sets, so my number of TV sets two years ago was too high. It has also grown and is now a 1.5 billion worldwide.

The numbers do evolve over time, also at this blog and in my books. But the numbers for mobile grow much faster.. Thanks Joanna.

Tomi Ahonen :-)


Thank you! That clears it all up! :)


brilliant stuff - many thanks!

Glasgow Builders

Many thanks for the article- it gives you a great perspective on what is going on on the global market.

To be honest I still think MMS technology has no real future. For short messages people use SMS, for more content-rich messages they prefer to login to their email account through a mobile phone or connect to their friends through a social website.

The comments to this entry are closed.

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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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