SMS messaging has been going strong for nearly 30 years. Today, application to person (or A2P SMS) as well as person-to-person (or P2P SMS) enjoys a 98% open rate within the first few minutes of receipt. That’s what makes it so popular with businesses and end-users alike. Sadly this beloved reputation has led fraudsters to take advantage of SMS. They use it to send dishonest, abusive, and unwanted messages – messages that threaten to disrupt the clean and feature-rich capabilities of SMS we’ve all come to rely on.

When the devastating EF-5 tornado smashed through Newcastle and Moore, Oklahoma on Monday afternoon, 20th of May, 2013, destroying everything in its path, taking 24 lives and injuring scores more, still it could have been much worse.  The National Weather Service issued the initial tornado warning a full 36 minutes before the tornado began to cross through Moore.  This type of lead-time saves lives and people in the Plains states – “Tornado Alley” – certainly pay heed to these warnings.

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.

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.