Managed Services

Texts Are Too Over the Top

12:05 AM -- Something happened in this year's Olympics that hasn't in games past: Viewers are texting and tweeting and posting so much about the events that they're overwhelming the networks and interrupting coverage.

The International Olympics Committee (IOC) asked viewers to "use another means" to send their mass texts and Tweets. I'm not surprised such a high-profile, global event is wreaking havoc on the networks in London, but the funny thing is, I thought operators were worried their customers already were using alternative means to text.

Ovum Ltd. , for example, suggests that operators lost $13.9 billion in potential SMS revenue in 2011 to social messaging apps like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iMessage, WhatsApp and even Twitter Inc. on their mobile phones. (See SMS Boom Days Are Over.)

Of course, operators will still generate a total of $722.7 billion in revenues from SMS between 2011 and 2016, according to Informa Telecoms & Media , so it probably depends on how you frame things. (See The Two Faces of OTT and Samsung Gets Its ChatOn Too.)

I recently spoke with Jim Israel, head of U.S. operations for SMS vendor Acision BV , which was out to dispel the notion of SMS cannibalization. But, the main point I took away was that it shouldn't matter what chat service consumers use. It's the wireless operators' job to make sure they all work together and provide the best possible experience for their customers.

They don't do that now, but Long Term Evolution (LTE) would be a good place to start with Rich Communications Suite (RCS) apps. Operators can use their network assets, like the phone book and presence, to make messaging more valuable and, most important, interoperable. This can all happen from one integrated portal that would still keep them in the value chain, just not the sole proprietor of it. (See Spanish Telcos Joyn Forces to Tackle OTT Threat .)

The ideal would be that the messaging service defaults to the best, cheapest option. In the case of the Olympics and other high-congestion events, the default would be OTT apps. That'd be even more valuable if the different OTT apps talked to each other, too.

Embracing OTT in the mix may be too idealistic for wireless operators, but they at least need to think about how to make their services more compelling in any scenario and, importantly, to interoperate, so you can text anyone you want.

Otherwise, what are we supposed to do, actually call people on the phone?

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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