Text messaging on the decline.

Around the world, text-message traffic has been declining because Internet-powered alternatives are becoming so widely used. American cell carriers have fought off the decline until now.



For the first time, the American wireless market saw a decline in the total number of messages sent by each customer each month, according to a report published Monday by Chetan Sharma, an independent mobile analyst who is a consultant for wireless carriers. In the third quarter of this year, cellphone owners sent an average of 678 texts a month, down from 696 texts a month in the previous quarter.

Though that’s a small dip, the change is noteworthy because for several years, text messaging had been steadily growing in the United States. Mr. Sharma said it was too early to tell whether the decline here would continue, but he noted that Internet-based messaging services, like Facebook messaging and Apple’s iMessage, had been chomping away at SMS usage. He said the decline would become more pronounced as more people buy smartphones. A bit more than 50 percent of cellphone owners here have smartphones.

The downward trend in text messaging is also evident among American businesses who offer cellphones to their employees. Tero Kuittinen, vice president of Alekstra, a company that helps people manage cellphone costs, said that employees at 10 of its corporate clients were sending 5 to 10 percent fewer text messages than a year ago.

Nonetheless, the seemingly imminent decline of text messaging, which is highly lucrative for carriers, doesn’t mean they need to lose much sleep. Big carriers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless are still posting healthy profits, largely because of revenue from mobile data plans, the fees people pay to use the Internet over their networks. Among the top three carriers, mobile data accounts for about 45 percent of the average amount of money made from each customer, Mr. Sharma said.

Photo credit: TweakTown

Via New York Times