WhatsApp, Facebook messenger eat SMS’s share as use down 15pc

The volume of mobile Short Message Service (SMS) sent by customers shrank by 15 percent in the three months to December amid an increased shift to cheaper alternatives such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Data from the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) shows SMS traffic dropped to 12.11 billion between October and December down from 14.23 billion SMS recorded between July and September.

This reverses the slight growth in SMS traffic that local telcos had recorded of 1.8 percent from 13.97 billion between April and June to 14.23 billion in the subsequent quarter.

“The general decline in domestic SMS is attributed to limited special offers and promotions during the reference period compared to the previous quarter,” said CA.

“Increasing preference for OTT (over-the-top) services like WhatsApp also influenced the slow uptake for SMS,” it said.

Safaricom accounted for most of this traffic amounting to 10.81 billion SMS, Airtel Kenya had SMS traffic of 1.25 billion, Telkom Kenya 37.55 million, Finserve 6.3 million, and Jamii Telecom 506,000.

This leaves Safaricom with a market share of 89.2 percent in the SMS traffic segment, Airtel with 10.4 percent, Telkom with 0.3 percent and Finserve with 0.1 percent.

This is as SMS sent per month per subscription declined from 72.4 to 61.4 messages.

The drop in SMS traffic comes at a time increased internet penetration and decreasing cost of mobile broadband subscriptions have accelerated the shift to cheaper forms of communication such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram among others.

The CA data shows that the total data subscriptions stood at 47.7 million during the reference period, out of which 66.8 percent were on mobile broadband.

This has also affected voice traffic, and in the three months to December, incoming mobile voice traffic declined by 3.4 percent whereas international outgoing mobile voice traffic rose by 4.6 percent.

International incoming and outgoing mobile SMS declined by 5.6 and 6.1 percent to 8.6 million and 4.7 million messages respectively.

“This is mainly as a result of increased preference for OTT channels such as WhatsApp and availability of lucrative special offers and promotions for data bundles that facilitate access to OTTs,” said CA.

However, the total outgoing domestic mobile voice traffic increased by 10.1 percent to post 20.8 billion minutes from 18.9 billion recorded in the previous quarter.

“The growth is attributed to the various voice promotions and special offers launched by the market players during the period coupled with long school holidays and the festive season,” CA noted.