Mobile Networks: Death of SMS, shrinking income from voice calls

Posted on by Mike Evans

You could be forgiven for thinking that the announcement of SMS-bashing iMessage had been anticipated by the cellular networks, particularly those in the UK. Over the past year or so they have been increasing the the number of free messages included in packages. Many users now enjoy unlimited in-country texting at very little cost.

For years text messaging has been a milch cow for the networks. But if they had not already dropped the cost dramatically Apple’s move would have been even more of a blow.The seamless integration of iMessage and SMS, with Apple deciding whether a called number is inside or outside the ecosystem, means that everyone will use iMessage without thinking about it. Where the networks will lose bigtime is in international texting, currently excluded from SMS packages. Even users on unlimited text plans will notice the difference when they go abroad.

And, while we are feeling sorry for the networks, there is the increasing availability and use of VOIP systems such as Viber. Since I installed the app six months ago I have been surprised by the number of friends and contacts registering for the service—the system automatically adds a Viber logo to the contacts list viewed from within the app—and the count is growing constantly.

I am now using Viber exclusively for international calls and have stopped paying for the now-expensive Microsoft subsidiary Skype. Admittedly, the call quality on slower 3G connections can be a problem, but that also applies to Skype and other VOIP systems. I can put up with that, and with Viber a caller ID is shown so the recipient knows you’ve called and can call back. It just works and is becoming ever more useful.

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