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April 29, 2013

Web Chat Services Through the Roof as Text Messaging Slumps

People are now sending more messages via Web chat services than they are through text message, and the fact has many mobile carriers shaking in their boots. 

Companies researching the trend show that Web chat services will only gain steam in the coming years. The analyst firm Informa notes that in 2012, the industry saw nearly 19 billion messages sent over these chat apps each day around the world, versus 17.6 billion text messages.

Informa prognosticates a sharp rise, predicting that in 2014, 20 billion app-based messages will be sent, while only 21 billion text messages are projected.

A recent study by Ovum forecasts that social messaging apps will cost operators $32.6 billion in 2013, and will soar, growing to over $86.0 billion in the year 2020.

According to Informa analyst Pamela Clark-Dickson, there were 3.5 billion text/SMS users in 2012. By the end of 2012, Clark-Dickson says there were 586.3 million users of these platforms.

This figure is only taking into account sic companies specializing in Internet-based chat apps, namely, WhatsApp, BlackBerry Messenger, Viber, Nimbuzz, Apple’s iMessage and KakaoTalk. Other giants like Facebook Messenger for Android, which has seen between 100-500 million downloads, and China’s TenCent which has around 300 million users, were not taken into consideration.

Nera Dharia, a consumer analyst at Ovum, discusses how social messaging will escalate over this year and beyond.

An obvious perk of social messaging services versus texting is that they are free, or based on discounted plans, Dharia points out.

“In 2013 we will see a large number of social messaging companies begin to grow into content platforms. KakaoTalk and Line already have growing revenue streams from games, emoticons, and marketing channels, while social gaming service DeNA has introduced a messaging service, Comm, to anchor its existing gaming platform,” Dharia says, adding, “Social messaging’s viral growth, high level of engagement, and sticky nature make it a strong foundation on which to build a content platform.”

Dharia notes that the 2013–15 period as “crucial in terms of the relationship between telcos and OTT players in the communication space.”

Ovum expects to see partnerships in this area intensify during the course of 2013.

Many Web chat companies are already fostering operator partnerships. WhatsApp has a number of them, including a roaming pass with three in Hong Kong and the GSM-based service offered by Reliance Communications in India.

Facebook is also working with operators and has a new partnership with 18 global operators to allow free or discounted data access to the social network’s messaging platform.

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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