China's three biggest telcos have yet to release their latest stats, but other industry numbers indicate the number of SMS sent during the recent Chinese Lunar New Year has dropped for the first time.
In Tianjing, for instance, which is one of China's major cities, the number SMS messages sent during the new year through Tianjing Mobile dropped 12.5 percent over last year to 245 million, according to a Sina News report. Tianjing Unicom saw 79.11 million SMS messages, down 10 percent over 2013.
In Shaoxing, a tier-2 city in affluent Zhejiang province, mobile subscriber sent a total 11 million during New Year Eve, a 21 percent decrease over the previous year.
This year could mark the first slump in volumes of SMS greetings in China, as more and more users have adopt other efficient and inexpensive ways to send greetings to each other. During 2013 Lunar New Year, the total amount of SMS greetings saw tepid increases from earlier years although the number of messages sent per capita had already dipped for the first time.
SMS is one of the main income streams for traditional telcos.
According to industry numbers, messaging apps such as Weibo and WeChat have become popular among Chinese mobile consumers who use these tools to send instant messages to their friends. During the Chinese New Year Eve last Thursday, the number of WeChat messages doubled over the same period in 2013, hitting 10 million a minute during the peak hour, noted a China.com.cn report.
During the first minute of Chinese New Year, a total of 800,000 messages were sent via Weibo, according to another local report.
However, the Sina report said SMS would remain one of the key ways for Chinese to send greeting messages since over 800,000 mobile phone subscribers in China are 2G users.
Unlike in affluent places where people are used to OTT (over-the-top) services, those living in less developed mid-western regions in China will still choose to send out SMSes to their friends.
In Chongqing, a major city in western China, 20 million customers of Chongqing Mobile sent a total of 300 million SMS messages during the 2014 New Year Eve, which was basically the same number as that sent in 2013.