Mobile firms gear up for New Year text-fest

Telecommunications companies are boosting capacity in preparation for millions of extra text messages on New Year's Eve

Telstra is boosting its mobile network to cope with the huge volume of SMS messages predicted for New Year's Eve.

The telecommunications heavyweight said it was expecting more than 16 million SMS messages will be sent on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day by its customers alone, two million more than last year's record of 14.2 million messages.

"Portable mobile base stations will be installed and mobile phone capacity increased at various celebration locations and holiday spots across Australia to help our customers connect on what is one of the most celebrated nights of the year," said Telstra corporate relations manager Maria Simpson.

Customers of Telstra sent 11.8 million SMSes on Christmas day -- a 30 percent increase on last year. There were still more mobile voice calls, though, with more than 15.1 million calls made from mobile phones on Christmas day.

Last year, many people experienced problems on New Years Eve, with many people finding messages were delayed for hours or even days, while others received the same messages multiple times.

Optus spokesperson Melissa Favero told ZDNet Australia that the company had recently optimised all of its base stations to ensure that maximum traffic levels could be accommodated. "We've also serviced other critical infrastructure," she said.

Although Optus has no plans to install extra mobile base stations, it will have a team of network planners, engineers and vendors monitoring the network over the New Year period to ensure everything runs smoothly, according to Favero.

"Like all the carriers, we do expect there'll be some congestion," said Favero, adding if there was a problem sending an SMS, people should be patient and try again a few minutes later.

The mobile telecommunications industry will be closely watching the number of MMS and other higher-value messages sent on New Years Eve, as it will be an indicator of how successfully the technology has been accepted.