A report out of the UK suggests that mobile carriers ‘lost’ something in the region of $US13.9 billion in SMS charges due to the rise of instant messaging services on smartphones. It’s left me wondering: What relevance do mobile voice and SMS charges have in an IP world anyway?
I originally saw the report on the BBC web site; but it’s based off Ovum research based on usage statistics from the leading social messaging apps used on smartphones. That figure of $US13.9 billion makes for a nice headline, but it’s total rubbish; you can’t lose what you never had, as it’s a projection of what the carriers would have taken in with SMS revenue had that been used as the communications medium. People didn’t, and therefore nothing was ‘lost’ in that sense.
What struck me — and this is purely a personal observation, if you’ll forgive me — is that as these kinds of services all start to lean more and more on data connections — are the rates we pay for things like SMS and even voice calls becoming increasingly redundant?
Speaking personally, my mobile phone plan has a number that’s associated with calls and texts, but (leaving aside the simple fact that ‘value’ of a plan is always a nebulous concept, given flagfalls and special timed rates) I’ve honestly no idea what it is, and that doesn’t bother me at all, because I never, ever go anywhere near it. It’s not that I’m call or text-phobic, but simply that the amount involved is more than I’ll ever use in a month. It could be quoted at the price of the Death Star, and it still wouldn’t make a difference to me; I pay what I pay because of the quantity of included data, not the voice and text inclusions.
It’s not so much that mobile carriers are ‘losing’ money that they never had in the first place; they’re just seeing a normalisation of the market towards data costs. The margins are undeniably different; SMS chatter is almost obscenely profitable, data less so — but that’s not the consumer’s problem in any case.