TEXTING peaked in the last year, according to a new report published today, on the 20th anniversary of the first mobile phone text message being sent.
The study by Ofcom found that the volume of SMS messages sent in the UK declined from a peak of 39.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011 to 39.1 billion and 38.5 billion in the first two quarters of 2012 respectively.
At its peak more than 5,000 texts were sent every second in the UK.
The report also found that texting is the most popular way to stay in contact, with 90 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 texting daily to communicate with friends and family, against 63 per cent who choose to talk face to face.
The Communications Market Report 2012 said that talking on the phone was also less popular than texting among this younger age group, with only 67 per cent saying they make daily phone calls.
The first ever text was sent on 3 December, 1992, when Neil Papworth, 22, a British engineer, used his computer to send the message “Merry Christmas” to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone.
According to research by Ofcom, the communications watchdog, the average UK consumer now sends around 50 text messages every week.
In 2011, more than 150 billion text messages were sent in the UK – almost triple the amount sent five years previously. In 2006, 51 billion texts were sent, according to an Ofcom report.
The report also found that texting was now most prolific among those aged 12 to 15, who send an average of 193 texts every week, almost four times the UK average. This has more than doubled from 12 months ago, when just 91 were sent each week by the same age group.
Girls aged between 12 and 15 text significantly more than boys, sending an average of 221 messages a week – 35 per cent more than boys the same age, who send 164 a week. The average child aged eight to 11 sends 41 texts each week, almost double the number (23) sent in 2011.
The decline in texting could be attributed to people using alternative forms of text-based communications, such as instant messaging and social networking sites. The recent increase in ownership of internet-connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones, could also be behind this trend. Four in ten adults (39 per cent) now has a smartphone, making it easier to gain access to internet-based communications.
James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of research, said: “When texting was first conceived, many saw it as nothing more than a niche service. But texts have now surpassed traditional phone calls and meeting face to face as the most frequent way of keeping in touch for UK adults, revolutionising the way we socialise, work and network.
“For the first time in the history of mobile phones, SMS volumes are showing signs of decline. However, the availability of a wider range of communications tools, like instant messaging and social networking sites, mean that people might be sending fewer SMS messages, but they are ‘texting’ more than ever before.”
• The first SMS was sent in 1992.
• In 2010, 6.1 trillion texts were sent globally.
• Text messages earn the telecoms industry about £71.5 billion a year.
• Research has shown that driving while texting is twice as dangerous as drink-driving.