Texting Finally Takes Off in US
By Eric Lin, Wed Apr 07 23:00:00 GMT 2004

While the rest of the high tech nations are moving on to MMS, texting is finally catching on in the US. Last month US subscribers sent over 2 billion messages, surpassing the UK for the first time.

The plight of text messaging in the US has been a popular story for some time now. With so many different networks, using so many different protocols, it is a monumental task to complete both interoperability agreements, as well as message translation. A few years ago, it was easier for Cingular or T-Mobile GSM subscribers to send a message overseas than to each other. Last year, the major carriers then worked out an agreement that freed Americans to text each other, to some degree.

According to Glenice McKellen, VP of Messaging Services at AT&T Wireless, speaking to the BBC "66% of subscribers thought their messages were getting through, and that hasn't been the case." If the message isn't getting through, why bother sending it?

To vote for American Idol contestants, for one reason. It appears the texting tutorials AT&T sponsors on episodes of American Idol (the US version of Pop Idol) are creating more texters. The BBC thinks these texting lessons are a major factor behind the growth of messaging in the US- which is still miles, per capita, behind text heavy European nations including the UK. Of course interop has finally resulted in text messages getting through to other US subscribers, which has meant many of them learned to text in order to reply, creating a growth cycle as well.

The US is still 3 times behind the UK in number of messages sent per mobile subscriber, and miles behind text heavy nations like the Philippines. However TV shows, texts from friends and new applications, should keep the number of SMS sent growing here. Now the operators need to start on MMS interoperability so they can begin to take off as well.