|Issue:||Asia-Pacific I 2012|
|Topic:||Where is Text style communication going from here?|
|Title:||Chief Executive Officer|
|Organisation:||Infinite Convergence Solutions|
Anurag Lal is the CEO of Infinite Convergence Solutions, a leading provider of mobile messaging and application services. Anurag has over 20 years of leadership experience in technology, IT and telecom services. His role as Director of the United States National Broadband Taskforce, FCC wherein he contributed towards the development of the first National Broadband plan, has brought him worldwide recognition and elevated his status to being an industry visionary in the field. Prior to this appointment, he was senior vice president of Meru Network (NASDAQ: MERU) and chief business development and sales officer of iPass Inc (NASDAQ: IPAS). He was part of the core team involved in the IPO of both businesses.
SMS is unique in providing the “always works” experience. Though other social texting alternatives are attractive to particular groups, they cannot muster universal reach on any handset and require users’ prior registration. In 2012 we will see integrated messaging services launched, which will combine the SMS, MMS and IM experience and will have global interoperability via the Rich Communication Suite (RCS) standard interfaces. The high cost of introducing this service may be alleviated by service providers hosting it on behalf of many regional operators. Once this evolved messaging is integrated with carriers’ core offerings, it may germinate even more novel ways of communicating.
In 2012, Text Messaging on mobile phones, the most common form of communication on the planet, will evolve into a more social form of communication that will look and perform more like computer-based instant messaging or chat services. The mobile industry and wireless subscribers can look forward to evolved messaging clients that merge the SMS and instant messaging (IM) user experiences together, delivering an “always works” experience today associated with SMS text messaging.
The ITU (International Telecommunications Union) estimates that today nearly 87 per cent of the world’s population has a mobile phone subscription – that’s almost six billion people. When you’re dealing with a technology that is so ubiquitous (the ITU estimates that there are five times more mobile than fixed line subscribers, and 2.4 times more mobile users than Internet users), the usage statistics are going to be staggering. Consider this: last year mobile subscribers around the world sent 6.1 trillion SMS text messages; that is 16.7 billion per day. Though we don’t have the figures for 2011 yet, we can estimate that there will be another two billion more text messages sent this year, per day. By comparison, Twitter is up to approximately 250 million “tweets” per day. The number of SMS text messages sent outpaces every other form of text, voice or multimedia communication by at least a factor of two.
Text is firmly established as the default go-to and preferred style of communication. Why? Several factors have come together to make it so, not the least of which is the pervasiveness of cellular services and devices, along with our compulsion to always be connected. This availability and our desire to stay connected drives most of us to keep these devices switched on and within our grasp 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With always-on wireless connectivity enveloping the globe and most wireless devices capable of sending and receiving SMS messages, text messaging reaches anyone who has a mobile phone, anywhere in the world. In most cases, the SMS service is highly reliable and nearly real-time. No other form of communication, with perhaps the exception of voice calls, has these characteristics.
Text goes further in its appeal as it is less intrusive. It’s no wonder that text messaging inspires many new forms of communication which are built around social circles and based on a familiar IM and chat style of communication. IM applications, be it Facebook, Tencent QQ, Apple iMessenger, Blackberry BBM or Skype IM, and broadcast types of communication like Twitter have become a part of many cultures across the globe. These applications go beyond the short 160 character text messages of SMS and offer subscribers instantaneous one to one and many to many conversations as well as the ability to share pictures, videos, documents and more.
While all of these social network tools provide compelling service to their subscribers, they are limited in their reach and availability in ways that text messaging and voice communication are not. Whether we are discussing mobile or desktop based IM clients, social network communications services are not part of the operator’s core service portfolio. They run over the top (OTT) on the IP network. Therefore these social network applications won’t be present on everyone’s mobile device – not even everyone on the same operator’s network – so not everyone is available to these social communication groups. They are essentially silos of special interest.
Because they are OTT services, today social network and IM services can only reach about half the number of people that SMS messages can reach. These services also serve only those consumers who opt-in to and are accepted into the specific social group, and therefore it is difficult to add, in real-time, non-members into a discussion. Addressing this accessibility challenge has created markets for solutions that integrate IM user groups into one service, essentially creating a larger social group. However, without becoming part of the operator’s core communications offering, social network applications still lack the global reach and availability that cellular based services deliver by default.
The Next Generation of Messaging Services Emerges
This is the year when the industry will witness the evolution of near ubiquitous text messaging into a more robust IM and chat service offered by major mobile network operators as part of their core network based offering. OEM smartphone and device manufacturers will also roll out evolved messaging clients that merge SMS, multimedia messaging (MMS), rich content and IM user experiences together. This evolution could be based on, or evolve from, the new Rich Communication Service (RCS) standard adopted by GSMA (GSM Association representing the interest of mobile operators in more than 220 countries).
It is likely that service providers will bundle this evolved messaging service with additional services in order to differentiate themselves from competitors, but the primary service will be common across all providers to ensure its ubiquity, availability, reliability and ability for IM communication to reach across all service providers.
Some of the enhancements will be gateways to social networks and or OTT applications, enabling a cellular subscriber to join conversations taking place within a social group in which they are not currently a part. We don’t ever see social networks going away, but rather believe they will be integrated into the more widely available and tightly integrated Rich Communication services provided by the mobile carriers of the world.
The Appeal of Hosted Messaging Services grows
SMS and MMS messaging are still experiencing strong growth, particularly in markets where spectrum is just now being made available for advanced 3G services. Not all operators in these markets have the technical and financial resources to roll out both voice and data services. The need for such resources creates demand for hosted messaging service offerings. In this scenario, companies put a SMS and MMS solution into a specific region and offer SMS and MMS services to multiple carriers, thereby lowering the cost, speeding up time to market and providing a richer service portfolio to subscribers. Key attributes of a hosted service offering must include network and service customisation, cost effective scalability to ensure availability of the service, and a rich set of services that guarantee message delivery to subscribers. We have already seen the move in this direction via the announcement of network sharing deals by numerous operators across the globe.
This approach of lowering cost of entering the market of SMS and MMS services also applies to more mature operators that are sensitive to the higher CAPEX and OPEX needed for an evolved service like RCS. In the case of RCS, a hosted service solution will make a great deal of sense to many operators, particularly as the service is just rolling out when the need for upgraded clients on all the phones and tablets is greatest.
SMS, MMS, social networking, Twitter and IM services are all still growing and becoming ever more integrated and more prevalent in our personal and professional lives. This has encouraged the creation of many new services, businesses and market opportunities. The converged, multi-network and multi-function capability of messaging continues to evolve and will become more available and more reliable, as carriers and OTT vendors integrate these new services into their core offerings. When this happens, this will set the stage for even more new ways of communicating and doing business. Get ready, because the world of texting and IM’ing is going to be even more exciting, starting right now.