Will Facebook Messenger ever replace a text message

WhatsApp, TextMe and Co .: The SMS gets competition

SMS are still popular
Image: A.Z. - Fotolia.com Just as quickly, just as easily - but for free: "We offer a mobile messaging app with which you can send messages without paying for a text message", advertises the company "WhatsApp" combative and puts a finger in it the wound of the mobile operator. Because messenger services for smartphones have long been able to do everything that an SMS can - and more: the restriction to 160 characters is no longer applicable and the whole thing is free of charge. Up to 40 percent of the SMS volume could shift to the messenger services in the next four years, predict industry experts like Roman Friedrich from the management consultancy Booz & Company.

SMS are still popular
Image: A.Z. - Fotolia.com More and more new messenger programs are entering the market: The apps are called "Plinger", "TextMe" or "Kik", most of which cost less than one euro or nothing to download. The world's largest online network, Facebook, has just launched its Messenger in Germany, and it now works on Blackberries, Android phones and iPhones. Since this summer, the Californian computer company Apple has also been offering its own chat communication integrated into the iOS operating system with its "iMessage" program. Blackberry has been scoring points for a long time with its "Blackberry Messenger". Users only pay for the data transfer via mobile internet and in many cases this is included in a monthly fixed price.

"For some customer segments these services are certainly a competition," says a spokesman for Deutsche Telekom. And the association of providers of telecommunications and value-added services (VATM) is also observing developments very closely, says Managing Director Jürgen Grützner. "A community will certainly develop here that is increasingly competitive with conventional SMS."

Up to 116.9 million SMS per day

But the assembled competition of SMS apparently cannot harm it: In 2011, according to initial estimates by the Association of Telecommunications and Value-Added Services (VATM), 116.9 million short messages were sent daily via mobile phones in Germany, more than ever before. "The SMS has just proven itself," says management consultant Friedrich. "It is immediate, direct and its popularity is very high. There is no need to fear the disappearance of the SMS." And at Telekom, too, they are certain that the SMS "will certainly not be completely replaceable in the foreseeable future".

This is due, among other things, to the big catch with messengers: not all programs can send back and forth between different smartphone providers and of course the user has to have a smartphone in the first place. According to the industry association Bitkom, around every third newly sold cell phone in Germany is currently a smartphone. "But of course there are more and more, and with that the competition from messengers is growing," warns Friedrich. Cellular providers would have to adjust to it. "The classic SMS business model is under attack."

SMS mean a lot of money for providers

And that's a lucrative one - some experts even speak of a gold mine. Many German cell phone users pay around 20 cents per SMS. In the meantime, however, flat rates are also widespread. In contrast, the costs for the mobile operator are low. According to a study by the computer science professor Srinivasan Keshav from the Canadian Waterloo University from 2009, which is based on data from American mobile network operators, they are around 0.3 dollar cents (around 0.2 euro cents) per SMS. Profit margins of around 80 percent are not uncommon.

Overall, the SMS business in Germany accounts for around ten percent of the total turnover of mobile phone providers, says Roman Friedrich. In order to defend this, one has to move with the times - for example by offering customers their own messenger programs that are installed on their smartphones. "That doesn't have to have a negative impact on sales, it can even be positive."