Texting turns twenty

News 3 Dec, 2012

But not so gr8 time ahead for ailing SMS messaging service.

It has been 20 years since the first SMS message was sent, but the number of messages sent has started to fall in last six months.

The first half of 2012 saw two quarterly declines in the volume of SMS messages sent in the UK. The first quarter of 2012 saw 39.1 billion texts sent while in the second quarter 38.5 billion SMSs were sent, falling slightly from their peak of 39.7 billion in the fourth quarter in 2011.

The availability of a wider range of communications tools mean that people might be sending fewer SMS messages

According to Ofcom, who compiled the figures, this decline could be down to people using alternative forms of text based communications, such as instant messaging and social networking sites. The recent increase in ownership of internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones, could be responsible for this trend, the watchdog said.

"When texting was first conceived many saw it as nothing more than a niche service," said James Thickett, Ofcom’s Director of Research.

"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," he added.

Thickett also said that 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," he said.

The first ever text was sent on 3 December 1992, when a 22-year-old British engineer called Neil Papworth used his computer to send the message “Merry Christmas” to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

In 2011, more than 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK, which was almost triple the amount sent five years previously in 2006 when 51 billion texts were sent.

SMS messaging still remains the most popular way of keeping in contact. According to Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2012, 90 per cent of 16-24s text on a daily basis to communicate with friends and family.

By comparison, talking on the phone is less popular among this younger age group, with 67 per cent making mobile phone calls on a daily basis, and only 63 per cent talking face to face.

In 2011, more than 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK, which was almost triple the amount sent five years previously in 2006 when 51 billion texts were sent.