Ofcom: Data and SMS Are King, Leapfrogging Calls on Mobile
British consumers now use data service through SMS, apps, browsing or other services more than they use their handsets to call - so says a report from telecoms regulator Ofcom.
According to the Communications Market Report 2012, the sharp rise in smartphone ownership has pushed up the use of data, with the average UK consumer sending 50 texts per week – a doubling in four years. More than 150bn text messages were sent in 2011.
Overall, the more traditional voice call is declining in popularity, with time spent on the phone falling by 5 per cent in 2011 - 1 per cent fall in the volume of mobile calls, and a precipitous drop of 10 per cent in landline calls.
39 per cent of adults own a smartphone, a 12 point increase compared to 2010. 42 per cent of these people now say their smartphone is the most important device for accessing the internet, with 42 per cent using social networking sites and 51 per cent using e-mail.
The change from voice to data is driven by the young. 96 per cent of 16-24 year-olds use some form of text-based app every day to communicate with friends and family; 90 per cent use texts, and 73 per cent use social networks.
The mobile community responds
Fred Huet, managing partner of Greenwich Consulting, says the research proves that recent reports of SMS's death have been greatly exaggerated. “There are simply a greater number of mobile messaging and communications tools on offer, and therefore a more fragmented market," says Huet. "What is perhaps most fascinating is the battle taking place between operators and cutting-edge OTT messaging services like WhatsApp. As consumers will clearly continue to use messaging, innovation will be key in ensuring operators’ continued relevance in this space as mobile-phone users look to move beyond traditional SMS.”
Alastair Shortland, CEO of UK business mobile messaging company Textlocal, says that despite the popularity of SMS, there's still work to be done in educating businesses to communicate with their audiences via text. “Our own research indicates that many businesses are aware of mobile messaging, but there are still some who are yet to tap into the full potential of how powerful it can be as a business driver," says Shortland. "We know that, whether businesses have a mobile strategy or not, there will always be a place for opt-in bulk SMS within the marketing mix, as a personal communication tool, sales or promotion tool or simply to send alerts and updates. Texting leads the way in fast, low-cost, direct conversations with consumers.”
George Wareing, head of mobile and broadcast at Virgin Media Business, reckons the key figure is the jump in data usage, and the challenge it poses to network operators. "Simply put, mobile data usage is like a bottomless pit, it’s expanding all the time. We’re all looking forward to the benefits of 4G, but it raises some tough questions for operators," says Wareing. “People aren’t going to give up this trend for streaming content and all the indications are it’s going to increase. Operators need to think about the long-term impact and put in place a strategy that’ll make sure customers aren’t affected by a potential bottlenecking of services.”
Rob Jonas, VP & MD EMEA and Global Business Operations at InMobi asks what this adoption of data connectivity means for brands and advertisers. "We can all see how mobile devices are changing the way consumers interact, learn and shop," Jonas says. "There is a new wave of mobile consumer behaviour, which is creating dramatic changes in the mobile landscape, with users consuming content media and video content on smartphones or tablets rather than on traditional PCs. By no stretch of the imagination are traditional advertising channels dead but we have all witnessed the rapid uptake of Tablet devices, and the demand for media content being available anywhere anytime. If you're an advertiser and not thinking about a mobile strategy, don't be surprised if you're left at the back of the mobile race."