Text messaging displaced by social net apps

Web messaging services like WhatsApp have surpassed SMS text traffic for the first time ever, according to a report from Informa.

Services like WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, and Facebook Chat raced past SMS in 2012, with Informa recording 19 billion messages sent per day on chat apps – trumping 17.6 billion sent by SMS.

Telcos will be scratching their heads over how to further monetise SMS messages, or if a new approach is needed entirely. The numerous operators in Britain try to seduce customers onto contracts with promises of thousands of free texts per month, but these are threatened by the rapid rise in free chat using the web. It may be more reliable, and cheaper, to fire up WhatsApp than hammer off a text message.

Services like WhatsApp do not suffer from character limitations and users are able to attach pictures without extra charge, unlike sending an MMS for many. This will depend, of course, on data limitations.

Informa’s Pamela Clark-Dickson told the BBC that there is still life in SMS, particularly in emerging and lesser developed economies who may not have quite as much data access as they’d need for web messaging. However, with aggressive infrastructure building and a swaming of telcos across developing regions, this too should change eventually.

There are still plenty of people on feature phones who will rely on SMS for communicating, it’s clear that smart devices are cleaving a different path towards something else. In Europe, the changes are already impacting the traditional operators – with real-world revenue losses in the hundreds of millions as traffic declined from 2007 to 2011.