Why SMS hasn't died in the era of messaging apps
Mobile Communications

Why SMS hasn't died in the era of messaging apps

The entry of over the top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp and Viber, gave major telecom companies in Africa and their governments a reason of concern. For the telcos, their SMS revenues would drop as more users opt to use "free" messaging apps.

Such services solely rely on internet connection and do not have a backhaul of infrastructure the telcos have to put up and maintain. In Ethiopia the government planned to charge OTT apps users because they were affecting income for the state owned EthioTelecom.

However, years after the introduction of WhatsApp and other messaging apps, their cannibalisation of short message service (SMS) is yet to be felt, especially in Africa. Both Kenya's leading telco Safaricom and Telkom Kenya have offered free WhatsApp bundle for their users, indicating that the domination of messaging services has been highly exaggerated - at least for now.

Even though access to WhatsApp needs data that increases the telco's data margins, there seems to be little change on its effect on SMS. According to the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), the body that regulates telecom companies, there is still an increase in SMS usage across the country.

In their second quarter for year 2018/19 (October to December 2018) there were over 17 billion net SMS compared to the previous quarter (July to September 2018) where they recorded over 14 billion on net SMS.

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Vincent Matinde

Vincent Matinde is an international IT Journalist highlighting African innovations in the technology scene.

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