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    Mobile Data Association announces latest findings on mobile phone usage across the UK


    The Mobile Data Association (MDA) has today announced its latest quarterly report on mobile phone usage in the UK. The report covers activity from October 2008 – January 2009 for Text Messaging (SMS) and Picture and Video Messaging (MMS).

    The new data is said to show continued growth of both metrics and  highlights clear trends in the way both businesses and consumers recognise the respective merits of SMS compared to MMS.

    According to MDA, consumers have without question made mobile messaging their own: it connects friends and family, it feeds pictures, video or messages to social media tools.  Both SMS and MMS now have a clear place in the connected lives of UK mobile owners.

    The trend observed by the MDA in 2008 was the distinct and different uses of SMS vs MMS adopted by consumers.  Users clearly see value and use the two technologies in different ways. While SMS is used for conversational activity, MMS is much more ‘event' driven, and this was underlined by the seasonal use of both technologies during the festive period.

    160 characters VS a thousand words

    The data below highlights the trend for MMS being used for ‘an event', Christmas day and New Years Eve being examples.  On Christmas Day a total of 4.4 million MMS messages were sent or 3,000 messages every minute. 

    Christmas  Day 2008

    Increase on last year

    New Years Eve 2008/9

    Increase on last year




    SMS  337,210,764.00


    SMS     397,878,407.00





    MMS     4,464,163.00


    MMS        2,690,898.00


    If we examine MMS volumes in November and December, it is clear the increase is associated with the seasonal event:

    MMS month on month increases driven by seasonal ‘event':













    % Increase


    % Increase






    It is clear, says MDA, that MMS and SMS will continue to co-exist and be complementary technologies.  Based on these trends it is unlikely that MMS will supersede SMS as the volume of ‘conversational' messages will always be greater than those perceived as ‘event' driven requiring a video or picture message.  In 2008 MMS has achieved significant momentum and the commitment from mobile operators to offer competitive bundled tariffs will see MMS volumes continue to grow, says MDA.

    Speaking about the report findings and data trends, The Mobile Data Association Chairman, Steve Reynolds, said: "It's fascinating to see the evolution of mobile technology, most compelling is the way users define its use and application.  The idea that MMS has a distinct role compared to SMS is a great example. It further highlights the enjoyment that mobile technologies bring us all; the ability to connect people through an event or occasion makes mobile an incredibly powerful part of people's lives."

    Q4 2008 Statistical findings

    The MDA reports are claimed to be unique as they report historical user data, not estimates or predictions, the figures are aggregated from all UK mobile operators.

    The report highlights two key areas of mobile data usage:

    1. Text messaging (SMS)
    2. Picture and Video messaging (MMS)

    Text Messaging (SMS)

    Total number of text messages (SMS) sent in:

    2008 total 78.9 billion

    2007 total 56.9 billion

    2006 total 41.8 billion


    The statistics can be broken down as follows in 2008:

    Year on year growth (2008 vs 2007): 38% growth

    Number of text messages sent per day: 216 million

    Average number of text messages sent per person: 1,213 (based 65 million active UK mobile devices)


    Video and Picture messages (MMS)

    Total number of picture messages (MMS) sent in:

    2008 total 553 million

    2007 total 449 million

    2006 total 336 million


    These statistics can be broken down as follows in 2008:

    Year on year growth (2008 vs 2007): 23% growth

    Number of MMS messages sent per day: 1.5 million

    Assessing the findings of the MDA's Q4 report, Rob Bamforth, Principal Analyst at Quocirca, said: "Messaging on the move continues to grow and as it does the reasons or purposes widen. While SMS messages allow for quick simple voice call replacement, MMS has different drivers.  These often revolve around more specific needs or events. A spike in seasonal use demonstrates one such example but there are others.  Celebrations, holidays, and other events are particular applications that will drive more sophisticated use that fits well with MMS and extends messaging beyond simple text to other media."