CTIA Vice President: Texting, MMS, and Cellular Subscribers Are All Moving Up

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While people are spending less time talking on their cell phones on an individual basis, and more time texting, the overall volume of cell phone voice calling in the U.S. continues to rise, according to the vice president of research at the CTIA. 

That’s because the numbers of cell phone subscribers keeps going up likewise, said Robert Roche, the CTIA’s VP of research, in an interview with Brighthand.

In response to a recent New York Times article, Roche suggested that he wants to make sure data from the CTIA’s latest semiannual survey isn’t misconstrued by any readers to mean that the total amount of voice calling has dropped.

Yet he confirmed assertions in the NYT article that the average number of voice minutes per user has fallen over the past two years, while at the same time text messaging is moving in an upward direction.

Furthermore, MMS messaging — involving picture transmission from cell phones — is now experiencing an even stronger surge than texting, according to the research VP.

Specifically, CTIA data shows that average monthly minutes of use (MOUs) for voice calling kept creeping up from 1993 onward to reach a total of 752 minutes per subscriber in 2007 — but that voice calling then dropped off to 728 MOUs in 2008, and even further to 716 MOUs in 2009.

Simultaneously, the total numbers of annual text messages more than tripled from about 362.5 billion in 2007 to 1.5 billion in 2009, while the numbers of MMS messages more than quintupled from around 6.0 billion in 2007 to 34.5 billion only two years later.

Over the same time frame, however, the average number of cellular subscribers reported to the CTIA by wireless carriers stepped up from 234.9 million back in 2007 to 264.7 million last year.

Translating some of these massive numbers into more immediately graspable terms, Roche gave figures for the months of December, 2008 and December 2009 on a per subscriber basis.

In December of 2009, the average cellular subscriber in the US sent or received 492 text messages, up from 332 text messages in December of 2008, he said.

Also from December of 2008 to December of 2009, the average numbers of MMS messages sent or received per subscriber moved from five MMS messages to 11.

Attributing much of the growth in MMS messaging to digital photography, Roche noted that, on a recent trip to Europe, he used MMS messaging about 25 times to transmit photos.

Roche has also said he’s noticed generational differences in text messaging between himself and his teenaged daughter, for instance. Generally speaking, texting seems to be more popular with younger cell phone users, and voice calling with older users, the research VP surmised.

Half of all teens today are sending 50 or more text messages per day, or 1,500 per month, and one in three are sending more than 100 texts per day, or 1,500 per month, concurs a report on “Teens and Mobile Phones” published last month by PEW Research.

“Text messaging has become the primary way that teens reach their friends, surpassing face-to-face contact, e-mail, instant messaging and voice calling,” says the PEW report.

On the other hand, “voice calling is still the preferred mode for reaching parents for most teens,” also according to the report.




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