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GSM Association Press Release


GSM Association reports 15 Billion GSM Text messages sent globally during December 2000

LONDON, UK - 12 February 2001: The GSM Association today announced that a record 15 billion SMS (Short Message Service) Text messages were sent over the world's GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) wireless networks during December 2000.

The figure indicates a five-fold increase in the volume of text messages generated every month by GSM wireless customers around the globe in the past year.

"This is a truly staggering demonstration of the increasing popularity of the SMS facility," says Rob Conway, CEO of the GSM Association. "SMS text is now achieving critical mass in many international markets. We have seen a huge culture change in the way people choose to communicate - now the visual message is as powerful and popular as voice."

An increase in the volume, value, variety and flexibility of services for consumers has contributed to growth substantially.

"SMS has become an integral part of people's lives - business and personal," says Conway. "An ever increasing raft of new applications, particularly information services, is likely to further boost take-up and usage. The GSM Association is already anticipating that by December 2001, we will be seeing monthly global SMS volumes achieve the 25 billion mark. And over 200 Billion in total for 2001."
Since the initial launch of text services, SMS has steadily grown before experiencing a huge increase during the last year. This pattern has been reflected around the world, as individual markets achieve mass penetration, fuelled by the popularity of GSM pre-paid subscriptions.

Growth in many European markets continues to soar. In the UK customers generated 756 million text messages in December 2000, representing a growth close to 300 percent on December 1999 figures, whilst Germany achieved a staggering 1.8 billion SMS messages during the month.

Asia Pacific is experiencing rapid growth of SMS, particularly in countries such as China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia . In the Philippines, the initial introduction of free text messaging services within the monthly subscription fee created an explosion of over 18 million messages a day. Now, network operators have introduced a token text message charge to encourage 'responsible text messaging', although volumes continue to increase as the pre-paid customer base grows.

The holiday season and New Year celebrations saw a peak in SMS messaging. The average SMS traffic per GSM customer has grown from 0.4 in 1995 to an average 35 messages per GSM customer per month by end December 2000.

"By far the greatest usage of traffic continues to be generated by consumer applications," says Conway. "Person-to-person messaging still creates high volumes of short duration text message traffic for operators, especially in the pre-paid market."

The variety of messages using SMS text is increasing, both in terms of content, market segment, age group and geography. "SMS traffic volumes are exploding as we see an increasing number of SMS applications appearing," says Conway. Unified messaging and the arrival of mobile-Internet services means SMS will continue to be the primary alert mechanism for users to check and pick up their e-mail, fax or voice messages.

The rapidly growing availability of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) enabled handsets is helping to enhance the customer experience of reading and sending more messages. The arrival of the GSM family's next phase of evolution in the form of GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) will ensure faster speeds and boost the variety of services available significantly.

"Mobile banking, M-Commerce, and customer service applications are also bolstering SMS traffic. The arrival of more advanced data services will yet again increase demand. Clearly the mobile data market is already well seeded and preparing to take off."

A huge number of SMS information based services like web portals are being launched daily. In addition to basic m-commerce applications, corporate services, sports, financial, news and weather based information services are now available as well as ring-tone downloads and icon messaging. SMS chat rooms are appearing, and it's now possible to participate in auctions, advertise, gamble, or receive jokes via SMS.

The momentum of SMS as a medium for television audience voting is also gathering pace, alongside the popularity of interactive TV programmes such as 'Big Brother' , in many parts of the world. SMS is also a new medium of choice for televised awards ceremonies as a way to gather swift mass audience opinion.

Several GSM network operators have also taken to playing cupid with an anonymous text messaging service for Valentine's Day. In one campaign customers are asked to select a preferred message of admiration and the network takes care of the delivery.

In the UK, the National Blood bank donor service is currently using SMS to generate calls to younger age group donors and regularly remind volunteers of appointments. In some European countries, Muslims use SMS services to notify daily calls to prayer.

"The volume of global SMS traffic will continue to grow at this staggering rate as new and more creative uses for text messaging are found, and as new information services emerge, demonstrating the clear path ahead for the mobile data market," adds Conway. "That said, we anxiously await the arrival of more non-Latin alphabet based terminals, more accessories and larger display terminals in order to make the most of the global opportunities that exist."

Editor's Notes:

About the GSM Association:

The GSM Association is the world's leading wireless industry representative body, consisting of more than 514 second and third generation GSM network operators and key manufacturers & suppliers to the GSM industry. Membership of the Association spans 162 countries of the world.

The GSM Association is responsible for the deployment and evolution of the GSM family of technologies (GSM, GPRS, EDGE and 3GSM) for digital wireless communications. The Association's members provide digital GSM wireless services to more than 452 million customers* (as of end January 2001). The GSM system accounts for approximately 70 percent of the total digital cellular wireless market.

About SMS Figures:

The GSM Association does not release national breakdowns of SMS figures as this is both a regulatory matter in some countries and there are different processes that exist to publicise these in different regions and countries. The Association also does not issue regional breakdowns as this could be open to further confusion with different definitions of regions.

The Association provides global forecasts for end of year numbers as a guide, but it should be noted that in fast changing markets these may need to be
updated due to the many variables involved. We do not provide breakdowns to these global numbers.

All SMS numbers quoted to date are excluding voice mail alert SMS, but all other mobile originated or mobile terminated chargeable messages would be included. The basis for changing varies very widely from bundles within the monthly fee, to special offers, to different prices per message.
The GSM Association does not comment or set retail prices for messaging.

*Source: EMC

For more information, please contact:

Mark Smith
Tel +44 207 518 0549
Fax +44 207 518 0531

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