Although sending a SMS is still the prefered way to say ‘Happy New Year’ in France, things are starting to change. According to early estimates published in Les Echos, at least 600 million SMS were sent in France as 2013 descended upon us. SFR alone logged 280 million between 21h on the 31st and 9h the 1st, while Orange hit 152 million , Bouygues 115 millon, and Free 32+ million over the same period. When the final traffic figures are counted for the entire New Years eve/day period, the total figure is expected to hit 1 billion. However, this is actually a bit of a decrease over last year’s traffic. According to the operators, the main reasons for this are:
#1 The rise of Smartphones, which has driven a big uptick in MMS traffic…
The rapid uptake of smartphones in France , has made the process of sending phoots and video messages a lot easier and more intuitive for people. This is obviously a big positive for the mobile operators who saw big gains in MMS messaging this New Years. SFR, for example, saw their MMS traffic jump 54% over last year and logged approx 1 million MMS per hour between 23h and 1h. Orange did even better with a whopping 136% jump in their MMS traffic from last year. So, although much of the jump in MMS traffic did come at the expense of SMS, it’s still over all a net-positive for the mobile operators.
#2 …However, social media and other messaging alternatives are beginning to eat away at SMS traffic
An increasing amount of traditional messaging traffic is now moving to alternative platforms. With messaging and chat functionality available via Skype, Facebook, Gmail, etc and free messaging applications such as Whatsapp, eBuddy, Viber, and ChatOn!, things are starting to get a bit worrying for the mobile operators. Some of these apps are still a bit awkward to use, but that’s likely to change quickly as they improve their mobile user experience.
Interestingly, text traffic is showing some declines in the US as well, although this is an overall trend not just confined to the New Year period. However, this is less of a concern for US operators who, due to their less generous plans (vs what is now offered in France and elsewhere in Europe), they are able to compensate for the text messaging decline thru increased data usage. So, unlike their US counterparts, it’s hard to see how French operators might make up the shortfall in the long-term.