Brits send 11 million text messages an hour – carriers still own mobile messaging

[UK] A quick reality check. Despite the rise of social media, mobile messaging is still very much owned by the carriers in the form of the humble text message.

A new report out today from the Mobile Data Association (MDA) shows that throughout 2009, Brits sent an average of 11 million text messages (SMS) an hour or 265 million text messages per day, up 23% on the year before. Picture messaging (MMS) also saw an increase – up 9% or 1.6 million per day.

Overall, says the MDA, text messaging (and the carriers) are holding their own against competing mobile messaging channels, such as Facebook or Twitter’s DM feature. But why?

A quote from Steve Reynolds, MDA Chairman, is telling: “These statistics show that even with new social media forms of messaging such as Twitter and Facebook, people are using SMS as a social messaging tool because of its simplicity and ubiquity.”

Simplicity, maybe.

Ubiquity, certainly.

It’s all about network effects. Everybody with a mobile uses the same SMS standard (although I’m old enough to remember when Orange customers could only text other Orange customers), whereas not everybody is on Facebook or Twitter etc. and/or has it set up appropriately on their phone for mobile messaging. Furthermore, with regards to Twitter, a recent report by JMetrics, suggests that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon, if ever.

It’s claimed that “about 80% of all Twitter users have tweeted fewer than ten times.” Or worse still, “only about 17% of registered Twitter accounts sent a Tweet in December 2009, an all-time-low.” In contrast, December and the festive season was, according to the MDA, an especially popular month for text messaging.

While users may over time start to adopt the likes of Facebook over SMS, especially as smartphones begin to push status updates and direct messages to the phone’s homescreen in much more SMS-like fashion, it seems we’re still a long, long way off yet.