Forecast: OTT messaging traffic will double SMS volume by year's end

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Consumers across the globe will send 41 billion over-the-top mobile messages per day by the end of 2013, compared to an average of 19.5 billion peer-to-peer SMS, according to a new forecast issued by research firm Informa.

While Informa notes there were about 3.5 billion SMS users worldwide as of 2012, compared to about 586.3 million users of OTT free messaging apps, OTT traffic has already eclipsed SMS in terms of daily messaging volume: Consumers sent an average of 19.1 billion OTT messages per day in 2012, compared to 17.6 billion messages via SMS. OTT messaging app users send an average of 32.6 OTT messages each day, compared to just 5 SMS daily, Informa adds.

Booming OTT messaging adoption is already cannibalizing carrier revenues in markets like Spain, the Netherlands and South Korea, Informa states. For example, Spanish operator SMS revenues fell to $993.1 million U.S.in 2011, down from $1.4 billion in 2007, the year the BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) Messenger service ushered in the OTT services era.

Informa believes it is unlikely that SMS will fade away anytime soon, however, and in fact projects that global SMS revenues and traffic will continue to grow through 2016. "The adoption and use of OTT messaging apps is far from universal," the firm states. "Although there are multiple OTT-messaging 'communities' within which mobile users can message each other for free, OTT messaging users typically use SMS when communicating with non-OTT users." Informa adds that SMS is only now hitting its stride in the enterprise mobile messaging market.

In related news, researcher Ovum anticipates social messaging apps like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) Messenger will cost operators $32.6 billion in 2013, increasing to $86 billion in 2020. While operators like Singapore's Singtel and Indonesia's Telkomsel have already launched their own own branded social messaging apps to compete with OTT players, Ovum expects many carriers will partner with OTT competitors and anticipates a flurry of agreements over the next two to three years.

"WhatsApp already has a number of operator partnerships, including a roaming pass with 3 in Hong Kong and the GSM-based service offered by Reliance Communications in India," said Ovum consumer analyst Neha Dharia. "Facebook has a long history of working with operators, and its new partnership with 18 global operators will allow free or discounted data access to the social network's messaging platform. Social messaging player Viber's CEO has stated that the company will be happy to share revenues from paid services once it begins to charge consumers. Such operator partnerships help OTT players to broaden their reach, while the operators benefit from the sale of subscription plans."

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