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SMS usage in 2021 to erase previous year’s decline

The number of SMS sent and received by Nigerians is most likely to erase the significant decline recorded in 2020 going by the growth recorded by MTN the largest telecom operator in the country in the first quarter of the year.

The telco’s SMS revenue in the first quarter of 2021 rose to N10.67 billion against the N3.3 in 2020 representing a 300 percent growth in just three months and erasing the previous year’s decline by a wide margin.

The annual report by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) from the commission found that the total number of national SMS both sent and received as of December 2020 was 17.3 billion representing a decline of 43.6 percent from that of the total SMS sent and received in 2019 that stood at 30.7 billion SMS. To be sure, the number of SMS sent out in 2020 increased by 29.4 percent compared to 2019. However, the number of declined SMS in 2020 rose by 62.6 percent higher than that of 2019.

The 43.6 percent drop is the highest since the commission started collating the data in 2013. The decline was mostly due to subscribers utilising messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger among others which are free but require internet connection.

MTN in its unaudited results showed that messaging revenue declined and was linked to more subscribers ignoring the service for other messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messengers. In the company’s audited financial report at the end of December 2020, SMS revenue stood at N3.33 billion, failing to surpass the N3.66 billion recorded during the same period in 2019.

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The COVID-19 pandemic forced many subscribers to reconsider their necessities and a lot of them chose their basic needs over recharge cards or buying data in 2020. Hence, across voice and data subscriptions, the telecommunication industry saw a significant decline in patronage. As of July 2021, the total mobile subscriptions stood at 187.2 million compared to 207.9 million recorded in October 2020. The decline in voice and data also affected SMS sending and receiving. The cost of an SMS in Nigeria is N4 for 160 characters. This can easily add up if you have more to say.

Notwithstanding, the 300 percent growth in the total number of SMS made and received by MTN subscribers could also mean that adoption of the traditional messaging platform is not slowing down as thought by some experts. But it should be said that WhatsApp and other apps are superior to SMS with regard to the kinds of messages you can send. There are no limits on the number of characters in your messages, and of course, you can make voice and video calls, even internationally, for free. You can also attach documents of all kinds, as well video and audio clips. And if your cell phone service is cut off because you haven’t paid the bill, you can still communicate with people if you’re near a WiFi hotspot.

Nonetheless, marketers are finding new uses for SMS. Its biggest advantage is not requiring the internet unlike WhatsApp and other messaging apps available. Since it does not require the internet, you can be certain that the messages will reach their destination. They are always available to be sent.

SMS is also considered safer than WhatsApp and used frequently, not just to transmit deals or marketing messages, but to verify banking transactions. Even WhatsApp uses it to authenticate its users.

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