For the sixth consecutive year, I am happy and honored to offer my 2013 mobile industry predictions, along with a review of how well I did for 2012.  This year has been another banner year for mobile: Everything from Apple news to networks (LTE deployments and RCS as well) to mobile commerce.  Today, an ever-increasing number of subscribers are using smartphones and that is a growing, worldwide phenomenon.  In fact, in many markets, smartphone penetration has exceeded 50% and continues to grow.

If Ofcom (“the Independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries”) needed any more evidence of the texting behaviors of UK consumers, the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremonies provided a perfect forum for texting, before, during and especially after the fantastic Danny Boyle directed extravaganza.

Since Sybase 365 has a unique role in delivering inter-carrier traffic between mobile operators, around the world, we can use statistics from that data to provide very accurate estimates of texting (or SMS) traffic around the world. For the Olympics, we were and are watching. For the record, my SAP DB colleagues would note that I would be amiss if I did not mention that all SMS traffic data is powered by SAP Sybase IQ. That said; let’s take a look at some macro, hourly data:

Opening Ceremonies Graphic 2

The graph shows the SMS traffic departure from “normal” based on UK subscribers sending Mobile Originated messages. As you can clearly see, SMS traffic grows steeply as the ceremony begins, peaks, and then the departure from normal AFTER the event tops 80% between midnight and 1am! These are times when normal SMS traffic begins to decline to much lower nighttime volumes. However, in the early morning hours of the 28th, there was a lot of reaction throughout the wee hours until 5-6AM when things leveled off. The Olympics kickoff was quite the exciting event and the residual SMS traffic clearly shows that reaction. I should note at this point, we reviewed SMS traffic from other countries as well, but none were even close in terms of overall statistical significance as a result of the opening ceremonies.

We also looked more detailed 10-minute intervals of UK MO traffic over the three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday (July 27th-29th). In this graphic, you can clearly see “normal” traffic on Saturday and Sunday, contrasted with Friday’s build up to the opening ceremonies. As we are looking at the 28th and 29th, it is evident that none of the athletic events generated enough overall interest to cause a statistically relevant up-tick in the SMS traffic, but the Opening Ceremonies generated significant traffic surges.

Opening Ceremonies – Detailed v.1.0

As you can see from the key events on the graphic, the SMS traffic is either very reactionary or anticipatory to certain events. For example, there was a significant text boost in the 10-20 minutes prior to the British team’s arrival in the stadium.

SMS, as a Person-to-Person communications method is clearly still an extremely popular medium. Despite significant impacts from OTT players as well as iMessage (which is really not measured here), I expected some SMS-based reaction, but not as much as was seen. Certainly Twitter is today’s medium to comment, post, and discuss events such as this; however, SMS remains the preferred, personal communications medium between individuals.

We, as a consumer society, are increasingly becoming “mail-order,” or more precisely, online patrons. Online (and Mobile Friendly) mega-sites such as Amazon, Ebay, Overstock.com, and many more specialty retailers are putting increasing pressure on traditional brick and mortar shops. Certainly as all of the successful online retail sites offer mobile-friendly websites all the way to advanced apps and mobile-based customer outreach, using multiple channels, mobile shopping is quickly gaining as the preferred method to buy online.

No, this won’t be a 2012 type prediction of Armageddon! But the mobile industry has begun the inevitable and likely irrevocable evolution towards an all IP ecosystem. This also means that services – basic services such as voice and messaging have already begun to go IP – or “over-the-top” (OTT) ahead of equivalent offerings from the network providers themselves.

Worldwide, texting is a very personal activity – not withstanding the texting to short codes and receiving responses or alerts, roughly 90% of texting worldwide is to another person.  Globally, we still see SMS (or texting) growing.  Our global statistics continue to show worldwide SMS traffic growing, but certainly slowing

Mobile messaging, especially SMS-based messaging, has seen a resurgence of usage in the US market; however, it is not necessarily carrier-based SMS that has grown.  There are a growing number of messaging apps and services that have been launched and announced, and services such as iMessage are just around the corner.   This runs somewhat counter to recent industry and general press, were we’ve seen articles stating that “SMS is dead (or dying)” and that non-SMS “chat” services are displacing true, mobile-SMS interoperable services.    Certainly, in some markets, non-SMS “chat” services have cannibalized some SMS revenues – especially outside of the USA and Canada, but in general mobile operator SMS (as we know it) is alive and well.  

… to read the various headlines such as from BBC, or FierceContent, (and quite a few more — not all of them, mind you, but quite a few) you might get the idea that here is something that will be the true “SMS killer.”  Notwithstanding the over-imaginative headlines, I think Facebook Messenger is nothing more than an expansion of the popular online-based Facebook “chat” service.  I would suspect that this is more of a threat to various Instant Messaging (IM) services than it is to SMS.   The problem with IM is that the various communities have never really been interoperable with one another (which makes for good business for products such as Trillian by Cerulean Studios – users may sign into multiple IM communities using a single client or app).

It has been well-reported in the industry media over the past few months about the continued, explosive growth of mobile messaging – especially SMS and, in many markets, MMS. Either as a result, or despite this success, there are a few gray clouds trying to obscure this success with short-sided improvements and changes.

On Friday, 29 June, 2007-at 6:00 PM local time-a new direction may have been set for mobile messaging. That was the date the Apple iPhone went on sale in the U.S. The Apple iPhone sold 270,000 units by the end of Q2, and AT&T activated 146,000 subscribers on June 29 and 30, with more than 40% of them new to AT&T.  By the week of September 10th, Apple surpassed 1 million units. For better or worse-love it or hate it-the iPhone is destined to have a direct impact on the mobile world.