Filipinos no longer text ‘addicts’

By Lenie Lectura, Business Mirror

Posted at Jan 06 2011 01:29 AM | Updated as of Jan 14 2011 07:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Text messaging is no longer the most popular means of conveying holiday greetings.

This holds true among the 71 million combined subscriber base of Smart Communications Inc. and Globe Telecom.

Instead of sending their Christmas and New Year greetings via SMS or short message service during the recent holidays, the cellular subscribers preferred to call and/or post their greetings in various social networking sites.

Data provided by Globe, the country’s second-largest mobile phone operator with about 26 million subscribers, showed that SMS traffic declined year-on-year by 6% on December 24; 12% on December 25; and 9% on December 31 and January 1.

Smart claimed that SMS traffic went up on the same days albeit not as high as it used to be in the past years when handsets then still lack the capability to connect to the Internet.

“Our SMS traffic for Christmas and New Year is up over last year, but the growth is not as strong as prior years. But social media through our mobile network is definitely up,” said Smart spokesman Mon Isberto.

Smart president Napoleon Nazareno said in a text message that the company’s cellular network remained strong and resilient throughout the holidays “as I was getting and sending messages all the time.”

Isberto’s counterpart at Globe said the same thing. “There was more usage of data through social networking sites,” said Yoly Crisanto.

Both phone firms also noticed a surge in voice traffic. “Our voice traffic is up strongly,” added Isberto. “This mirrors our overall performance for the past year.”

Globe recorded a 40% increase in voice traffic on the eve of Christmas day; 63% the following day; 38% on the eve of New Year’s day; and 70% the next day.

Third player Sun Cellular of Gokongwei’s Digitel said it will not be able to provide traffic volume for both voice and text because “most of our customers subscribe to our unlimited call and text service,” said Digitel legal head William Pamintuan.

During the holidays, the telcos suspended most of the unlimited call and text offerings in a bid to prevent network congestion. This move may have freed up some space thus ensuring a no-glitch network at a time when Filipinos greet their friends and relatives with Christmas tidings via the use of mobile handsets. However, the suspension of such unli promos, particularly SMS, may have a hand in the low turnout of SMS volume.

For instance, some of Globe’s popular unli offers were only made available to its subscribers up to December 16 and 19. These include Super-Unli 25, which offers unlimited on-net calls and text messages in a day for P25, and Super-Unli for 7days, which offers unlimited intralocal voice calls and texts for a week for P150.

Touch Mobile Unlicombo100, which provides unlimited on-net local voice calls from 10 pm to 5 pm and texting for 24 hours for P100 for seven days, was no longer renewed after it lapsed on December 15.

Another TM promo, TM Unlicombo20, which offers unlimited on-net local voice calls from 10 pm to 5 pm and texting for 24 hours for P20, also expired on December 18.

The suspension, however, is only temporary. “Globe serves notice that it shall hold in abeyance renewal of the subject promo upon its expiration...to avoid network congestion,” it said.

Smart also excluded for implementation some of unlimited text messaging services.

Indeed, social networking websites started undermining some of the traffic patterns, noted one analyst. “It looks likes that the volume of text messages was already at its peak in 2009 as social networking websites started undermining SMS pattern as recorded in the past years.”

Filipinos sent an estimated 1.8 billion SMS messages every day in 2009. Figures, at that time, stated that Smart monitored nearly a billion SMS daily on December 24 and 31 while Globe handled about 800 million.

In 2006, Smart recorded about 800 million text messages daily. The number more than doubled from the 300 million daily SMS recorded in 2005.

On a normal day, Globe handles about 400 to 500 million text messages while Smart is processing about 800 million a day.

The Philippine telecom sector has been contributing more than 10% to the country’s GDP, having obviously been given a massive boost by the mobile segment over the last decade.

However, growth in mobile subscribers started to decline in 2009 while mobile revenues grew just by 1% compared with revenue growth of about 5% to 6% in the previous year.

According to the National Telecommunications Commission it is expected that growth in mobile subscribers will also decline this year as the cellular market matures.

Mobile handsets capable of accessing e-mails are now priced affordably by the vendors as well as operators themselves. Apart from this, mobile Internet education can now be viewed online.