The Use of Carrier SMS Texting Is In Decline

I generally don’t read USAToday, except while traveling, but a pair of articles on texting caught my attention.

The first, “Sore thumbs? Text messaging declines” (link) talks about the decline of SMS messaging by consumers.  People aren’t texting less, they are sending more messages then ever.  According to the article, Americans sent an estimated 2.2 trillion messages in 2012.  What is in decline is how many of those 2.2 trillion messages are sent and delivered by Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and other wireless carriers.

It place of SMS messaging is the rise in popularity of Internet-based short message service (SMS) applications such as Apple’s iMessage, Snap Chat, BlackBerry Messenger, and all the rest.  Unlike the SMS service you sign up for when you buy a new cell phone, these new texting apps use your phone’s Internet connection rather than the voice network on your cell phone.

So what does this mean?  Well, for one thing, it means that many of us can probably save some money on our monthly cell phone bills.  The days of thousands of dollar monthly bills due to uncontrolled text messaging is probably coming to an end.  My entire family has either an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and we all text each other with iMessages.  The number of pure SMS messages charged against my cell phone’s texting service plan in a month are virtually non-existant.

I once read an article online that spoke about text messaging fees from the big four wireless providers here in the U.S.  I didn’t save a copy of that article, but it essentially said that text messages are sent of the voice portion of the cell phone and that it only costs the phone company a few pennies to send a message.  We, the consumer, are paying anywhere from $0.10 – $0.25 for each message we send and receive.  To illustrate, if I send a text message to a friend on the same wireless service as me, the phone company will make $0.40 – $1.00 on what is really just to messages.  They make money when I send the original message twice (they charge me to send and my friend to receive) and when my friend replies.  Talk about price gouging.

The second article, “Fewer drivers nabbed by texting bans” (link) has to do with texting while driving, a very stupid thing to do, and the efforts of law enforcement to reduce the habit.  That piece, I think will be a different rant altogether.

Report: Teens Send Over 3,000 Text Messages a Month

BoyGeniusReport.com ran a story earlier this weekend that on average, teens send over 3,000 text messages a month.

“[Y]ou may or may not be surprised to know that U.S. teens, on average, send 3,339 text messages per month. The numbers come courtesy of analytics company Nielsen who analyzed the cellular habits of over 3,000 teens in April, May, and June. The study finds the males between the age of 13 and 17 send roughly 2,539 texts per month while females send a blistering 4,050.”

Call me old fashioned, but if I had that much to say, I’d save the stress on my thumbs and, you know, call the person on the phone.  Now I’ll be the first to admit that text messaging has it’s place.  For example, my wife works in a place where she can’t talk on her phone, and we have to send email or text messages.

When wireless carriers are counting text messages against your plan, they count both incoming and outgoing messages.  It would be interesting to see if the numbers Nielson is reporting are outbound text messages by teens or not.  If Nielsen is only counting outgoing messages, these are really some staggering numbers.

Bottom line: Parents if your kids have a cell phone capable of sending text messages, do yourself a favor and purchase the unlimited plan or have the text messaging service(s) blocked on their phone number.  Or, better yet, tell your child that they will have to pay the monthly service fee for the unlimited text messaging plan, if not the entire bill.

The Real Cost of SMS Messaging

Time Magazine has an interesting article on their website this week. The article, titled “Guess What Texting Costs Your Wireless Provider?” dumps a bucket of cold water on wireless subscribers.

According to the article, American teens have a combined average of 2,899 messages (sends and receives) a month; which I find a mind numbing number. SMS messaging, works over a cellular carrier’s voice network, not the data networks that provide Internet access to smartphones like Apple’s iPhone or Palm’s Pre. Yankee Group analyst Christopher Collins states that because of the limiting nature of SMS messages, 160 characters at a maximum, the carriers have been able to route the traffic over the existing voice network infrastructure. “They cost the mobile carriers so little that you could argue that they’re free,” says Collins.

Time’s article also sites the work of University of Waterloo in Ontario professor Srinivasan Keshav.

“He showed that the wireless channels contribute about a tenth of a cent to a carrier’s cost, that accounting charges might be twice that and that other costs basically round to zero because texting requires so little of a mobile network’s infrastructure. Summing up, Keshav found that a text message doesn’t cost providers more than 0.3 cent.”

If SMS messaging costs carriers less than a penny to process, why are wireless customers paying on average $0.15 – 0.20 per message sent or received? That’s what Wisconsin Democratic Senator Herbert Khol wants to know. Senator Kohl, “chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, [and will be holding] hearings on the matter in June.”

You can read the full article on the Time Magazine website.