Nov 29 2004 Mon
12:40 pm PHT
The Philippines has been widely touted as the “text capital of the world” for a few years now. You will hardly find any source on the web that will not mention the Philippines and its phenomenal volume of SMS. But I have been questioning this title recently.
The article “Germans are world SMS champions” claims just that. It says that Germans send a “whopping 200 million messages a year” most probably as of the 1Q of 2004. But the Philippines send an even more whopping “120 to 150 million messages” per day as of 3Q 2004, according to this article, and that “SMS volume in the Philippines is greater than all the countries of Europe combined,” according to this article.
An SMS pricing study mentions the Philippines as being the top country in terms of SMS usage. It says that Filipino texters send an average of 300 SMS per month. Since the article does not mention a time frame, let’s assume that this is true in early 2004, where the SMS subscriber base is about 22 million. This figure translates to about 6.6 billion SMS per month. If you’re going to use the “120 to 150 million messages per day” statistic in the previous paragraph, this translates to a very different value of 130 to 160 SMS per month using the subscriber base of 28 million from the same article.
So it’s acknowledged that Filipinos are text-crazy. Then why am I questioning the title? The phrase “text capital of the world” could actually mean anything. Personally, I’ve taken it to mean that the Philippines has the largest volume of SMS. That might’ve been true a few years ago (when SMS was free then), but we have certainly been surpassed by the world’s largest mobile subscriber market. Can you guess what it is? That’s right, China, with its over 250 million subscribers.
According to this article Chinese have sent 240 billion messages in 2003 alone. This accounts for about one-third of the global SMS volume (or roughly 750 billion). This is a huge leap from the statistics (from the line graph) released by the GSM Association which said that the global SMS volume in 2002 was about 300 billion messages. Most of that growth came from China which posted a 170% increase in SMS volume.
So is China the “text capital of the world”? In terms of volume, yes. But in terms of usage? No. Knowing that China had 270 million subscribers in 2003 according to this report (3.4 MB PDF), we can see that Chinese texters only send an average of 74 texts per month. Filipinos, if you recall, send anywhere from 130 to 300, depending on your source.
In addition, on a per capita basis alone, we beat China hands down. Mobile subscriber penetration rates in China reached only about 20% of the population in 2003 (according to the same report above), while the Philippines has a penetration rate of about 25% at the start of 2004 (assuming a subscriber base of 22 million in a country of 85 million). This is is expected to reach 50% by the end of next year [source].
Furthermore, because of Sun Cellular’s recent 24/7 promo (where Sun subscribers can call and text other Sun subscribers for free), the SMS volume is expected to dramatically increase as more and more people sign up for Sun accounts. In fact, the trend now is to get a Sun sim for only PHP 200 as a second mobile account and to get a cheap text phone (like the Nokia 2100).
So is the Philippines still the “text capital of the world”? I would say, yes.