A new report from independent analyst Chetan Sharma indicates text messaging revenues may have peaked for U.S. operators. The third quarter of 2012 saw a decline in both the number of text messages and in total messaging revenue as the usage of non-SMS offerings such as iMessage and Facebook Messenger continues to ramp up.
Sharma writes that “it might be early to say” that SMS revenues are on the wane, and the market could plateau for a while before the inevitable decline begins. Regardless, I don’t think we’ll see a precipitous drop in SMS usage or revenues in the next year or two — no other messaging offering enjoys the interoperability and universality of SMS, and I don’t see many users dropping their messaging plans entirely.
I am a bit surprised, however, that carriers have been so slow to respond to the obvious threat third-party messaging providers pose. U.S. network operators haven’t restructured messaging plans to make them more competitive — despite the fact that they’re ludicrously overpriced to begin with — and we haven’t seen any real innovation in terms of services in years. There’s still an opportunity here for carriers to fend off the competition by lowering prices and developing innovative new features. Carriers who understand that will extend the lifespan of their SMS revenues for as long as possible. Those who don’t will see their cash cows starve over the next several years.