I remember when SMS (Short Messaging Service) started in Europe 20 years ago. It was part of the European GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard. The idea was to use the data channel to send short messages (up to 160 characters) between the phones. In the beginning it was free to use, since the networks were basically owned by the big telecoms and they were focusing on the voice revenue.
Mobile phone penetration in Europe.
Please remember that cell phone penetration in the European Union has always been much higher than in the US, and the use of one standard: GSM, makes easier to use your phone everywhere. AT&T and T-Mobile (Subsidiary of German Telecom) use the GSM standard in the US, but with different frequencies.
When the European Commission introduced new rules to get GSM licenses, including the requirement that governments should allocate more than one license per country, competition started in other services. At that time GSM was only voice and text, not internet. Some providers started to charge to send SMS, not to receive, and that is still the case in most European markets. If your cell provider tells you they can’t do anything about getting unwanted text messages, they are lying, they don’t want to.
But it wasn’t until the arrival of prepaid phones and plans, when the teens started to use the system to communicate between them, and then a new market was created. Today texting or SMS accounts for more than 20% of the revenue of most European cell companies.
Most business people used pagers in the US until a few years ago, and some still do. The “texting” was done by paging people. The first BlackBerry device was introduced in 1999 as a two-way pager, not a phone, and they didn’t have a “Smartphone” until 2002. BlackBerry first made headway in the marketplace by concentrating on e-mail, and now RIM offers push email services to other devices, including mobile phones from Nokia.
But now texting is on the rise in the US, not only for teens, but we can see that the “adults” from 18 to 27 who started texting a few years ago have not stopped doing it. Teens are the heavy users, a recent report from the Pew Research Center about texting says “Teens send and receive text messages in numbers that are orders of magnitude greater than what is sent and received by adults. The average teen (even including teens without cell phones) sends and receives five times more text messages a day than a typical adult. A teen typically sends or receives 50 text messages a day, while the average adult sends or receives 10. Fully 31% of teens send more than 100 texts a day and 15% send more than 200 a day, while just 8% and 5% of adults send that many, respectively.”
In some European countries like Denmark and Sweden, with a mobile phone penetration of over 150%, texting is the most common way of communication.
I believe texting will continue to rise, and people are choosing more cell phone plans with unlimited text or hundreds of text messages included.