Economy, Sci & Tech

Messaging Apps Overtake SMS Significantly

Messaging Apps Overtake SMS Significantly Messaging Apps Overtake SMS Significantly

Every year, after the two-week Norouz (Iranian New Year) holidays in Iran (started March 20), the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology releases data on the number of calls and text messages sent over the holidays

This year, however, the number of text messages sent was dwarfed by Internet use, ISNA reported.

Given the increasing penetration of smartphones and 3 and 4G Internet in Iran, officials were more focused on improving Internet connectivity for the holidays this year.    

The preference for Internet entered a new phase after the ministry created a special New Year Committee that was focused on this issue. Although mobile network capacities were not altogether neglected, the committee started work with the goal of fortifying Internet networks.

From March 19 to April 2, the number of text messages sent dropped by 12 billion compared to the same period of the previous year when mobile phone users sent 19 billion text messages, 10 billion of which were sent by users of Hamrah-e-Avval (MCI) network.

The highest record on text messages was set in 2014 when mobile phone users sent 28 billion text messages over the holiday season. This number is expected to remain the highest record for the number of text messages sent in Iran.

At that time, only those who had purchased their very first SIM cards from Hamrah-e-Avval had sent 11 billion text messages, which is more than the overall number of text messages sent this year.

The number was 7 billion and 16 billion in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Iran's second mobile phone operator, Irancell, also carved a noticeable market share in this area.

In the New Year holidays of 2013 and 2014, Irancell users sent 9 and 16 billion text messages respectively.

Many predict that the end is near for SMS in Iran. The recent change in user behavior is clearly due to the rising popularity of Internet use.

According to the data released by one of the ministry's bureaus, there are nearly 16 million active mobile Internet users in Iran while 75 million actively used SIM cards.

However, Iranians are increasingly using social messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp instead of the services of mobile phone operators.

Deputy telecoms minister, Sadeq Abbasi Shahkouh, projected that Iran's mobile phone operators will go bankrupt over the next five years if they do not change their business strategies based on Internet use, as they will not be able to compete with online messaging services.

According to data revealed by the Communications Regulatory Authority, since the start of 2016, 40% of all mobile phone users have only been using their phones for online messaging services. For every SMS sent, the operators are required to give 51% of the share to the government while online messaging services are free of charge.

After this year's New Year holidays, the CRA announced that Internet use this year was 3.5 times more than in the previous year. From March 19-25, 7,295 terabytes of Internet data were used on mobile phones.

Officials have said data services do not make up for the costs of operators in this area.

Operators will have to focus on new services such as content and application creation, Internet Protocol Television and Mobile Virtual Networks so as to gain profits from Internet sales.