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Text Messaging Celebrates Its 20th Birthday

Today sees billions of mobile users celebrate the 20th anniversary of the SMS (Short Messaging Service) – after 22-year-old Neil Papworth sent out the world’s first ever text message way back on 3 December 1992.

Sending a text message reading “Happy Christma” (with the ‘s’ not included) from his computer to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone, the telecommunications industry was forever revolutionised. The Berkshire-based programmer came up with the invention known as Short Messaging Service after testing out the messaging technique with Vodafone employee Richard Jarvis; and despite not receiving a message back (no mobile phone had the capable technology back then), 7 years after sending out the initial message its popularity has increased rapidly – with approximately 8 trillion messages sent each year.

Watchdog Ofcom found that the average Briton sends an estimated 50 texts weekly, whilst a staggering 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK in 2011 – a figure that has tripled in the last five years.

However, this year paints a different picture; with the rise of free instant messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, as well as smartphone users being turned off by the idea of priced text messaging, this pattern has since contributed to the gradual decline in the number of people sending texts.

Ofcom director of research James Thickett explained: “When texting was first conceived many saw it as nothing more than a niche service.

“But texts have now surpassed traditional phone calls and meeting face to face as the most frequent way of keeping in touch for UK adults, revolutionising the way we socialise, work and network.

“For the first time in the history of mobile phones, SMS volumes are showing signs of decline. However the availability of a wider range of communications tools like instant messaging and social networking sites mean that people might be sending fewer SMS messages, but they are ‘texting’ more than ever before.”

But for the avid text messaging community, there’s still hope. Instant messaging apps might be the current trend, but Informa analysts predict that the SMS will soon regain its communications crown.

A spokesperson stated, “Informa forecasts that global SMS traffic will increase to 6.7 trillion messages, representing a year-on-year increase of 13.6 [percent], up from 5.9 trillion messages in 2011. That global growth is set to continue.

“Informa forecasts SMS traffic will total 9.4 trillion messages in 2016, and will generate US$127 billion in revenues.”

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