Back in the 1990s, I had my first mobile phone. It was a heavy piece of contraption that can only support phone calls. Years later, SMS, or text messaging was introduced and since then, the mobile communication industry has never looked back.
Recently, industry data showed that Filipinos doubled the number of text messages they sent last year to an average of 1 billion daily, from a subscriber base of just 50 million. This was a staggering number, which showed how prolific text messaging is to the Philippines.
Text capital of the world
In 2005, the Philippines achieved the distinction of being the “SMS capital of the world.” That year, Filipinos sent an average of 250 million text messages a day, according to the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).
Nobody in the industry probably saw text messaging to fly off in this magnitude. Much of it at the start was seen as a craze, a cultural trend that mostly tapped young people. But as technology moved, so did texting. What was once considered as popularity is now somehow a necessity.
Sending messages does not require making a call. Just by typing in a message and the recipient’s phone number, then sending it, the message goes to the operator’s message center, and finally forwards it to the recipient.
The art of text messaging
The art of texting is at the start, quite a challenge. For a beginner, it is an irritating skill to master, because of the idea of putting in all 26 letters of the alphabet (plus punctuation and other symbols) are all combined with only ten buttons. But in time and with a lot of practice, one will get used to it, as most texters now can type in messages in a matter of seconds.
Also, people have developed a shorthand, or their own set of vocabulary words, somewhat similar to what is used in Internet chat rooms. “WRU” is a three-letter acronym for “Where are you,” or “C U LTR” is “See you later.”
More than just messages
Much has been studied and researched about the text wave in the Philippines, and was found out that texting has become so popular because of a number of factors. One is affordability. At about 2 cents a message, the price is right for the cash-strapped youth.
Two of the biggest mobile service providers in the country – Globe and Smart – also have a lock on the market, which reaches to more than 40 million subscribers. Aside from this, both networks have distinct marketing and promotions to offer more affordable and innovative products and services, including cheaper phone units, pre-paid and post-paid lines and features like mobile banking and payments services. It also has set up conveniences like texting friends and relatives anywhere in the world, at a lower rate.
Just to do the math, the cost of one text message sent is about P 1, if sent to someone with the same carrier. Times that to 1 billion, multiply again with 365 days in a year, it amounts to P 365 billion, or $8.2 billion (based on a P44 exchange rate). That’s about more than 50 percent of the OFW remittances expected this year.
Truly texting has become a vehicle to more than just plain message sending to friends, family or colleagues. It has been a carrier of gossip, political campaigns, and was even credited with helping overthrow a government and a president.
There is no doubt that text messaging will continue in the next years. If innovation and technology steps up with something different, better and affordable, then maybe a little dip in the numbers will be seen. Still, until that time comes, texting is here to stay. (www.asianjournal.com)