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In a blog post released three weeks ago, I talked about how free mobile instant messaging apps would slowly eliminate the need for smartphone users to pay to send and receive SMS in developed markets.  I also touched upon how as mobile instant messaging consumption increases, advertisers will find innovative ways to advertise through this channel.


A Juniper Research report released today predicts that mobile messaging traffic will nearly double over the next five years to 28.2 trillion messages annually by 2017, and that mobile IM will drive a large chunk of this growth (Mobile messaging includes SMS, MMS, IM, e-mail, RCS/RCS-e and social media messaging).  Mobile IM will comprise more than 25% of all mobile messaging traffic by this time.  Their report also mentions that despite the rising usage of free mobile IM services and the dent these services have already made on the mobile messaging business, traditional SMS and MMS operator services revenue will continue to dominate the mobile messaging marketplace due to its ubiquitous reach and reliability.


Juniper is correct in saying that SMS and MMS services revenues will dwarf those of mobile IM, but this is likely due to the fact that many of these IM services are currently free in the first place, whereas text messaging is not.  As long as this is true, SMS revenue will almost always be greater than those of mobile IM, even if mobile IM usage surpassed that of SMS and MMS.  In addition, carriers will always find a way to monetize mobile messaging, whether that be tacking text messaging onto all mobile plans and raising prices, having customers choose between unlimited text messaging add-ons or pay-per-text with no in-between, or acquiring some mobile IM services and charging customers for these services.  Someone will always find a way to monetize whatever is being highly consumed.


Much fragmentation exists right now amongst mobile IM apps.  However, as we see consolidation in this space, mobile IM services will evolve to become more reliable and efficient, like any new technology.  This may or may not have a large impact on SMS revenues, depending partly on whether or not these services remain free.  Who knows, perhaps some technological black swan will occur in the next five years that would significantly impact the mobile messaging industry or even render both SMS and mobile IM redundant!


Based on the chart above, below are some key highlights and takeaways I think are important for mobile marketers & advertisers to consider.


  • Total mobile messaging traffic will double by 2017 to approximately 28.2 trillion messages globally
  • SMS will still comprise the largest portion of mobile messaging traffic
  • Mobile IM will comprise approximately 25% of mobile messaging traffic in 2017
  • As mentioned above, SMS and MMS revenue will continue to dwarf those of mobile IM



  • SMS and MMS mobile operator service revenues will almost always be higher than those of mobile IM because many mobile IM services are free while SMS and MMS are not
  • As long as mobile messaging consumption is high, there will always be a way to monetize mobile messaging, whether that be charging for these services or enabling advertisements through them
  • Industry consolidations and innovations may occur that would significantly impact Juniper’s projected numbers

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