Telstra users, Virgin all thumbs on NYE

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Telstra has exceeded 2002's New Year holiday record of 14.2 million SMS messages sent in the 48 hours from midday 31 December, with smaller telcos also recording texting increases.

Warwick Ponder, a spokesperson for Telstra, said on 2 January that 13,963,211 SMS messages had already been sent across Telstra's mobile network since 12 noon on 31 December by midday on New Year's Day -- with 24 hours of messaging left to add up.

"We will well exceed that 14.2 million figure," Ponder said.

Telstra had predicted that the total would exceed 16 million this year, but that figure itself would likely be exceeded. Figures for the second half of the 48 hours ending lunchtime 2 January were not yet available, he said.

A breakdown of Telstra revenue earned by the increased messaging activity was also not yet available, Ponder said, but would have been countered by the extra capacity -- including portable mobile base stations at certain holiday locations -- the vendor had installed to cater for the expected increase.

"It's too early to say about revenues, partly because messages cost from 25 cents to 15 cents each, and some plans are free," he said.

Ponder added that picture messaging had also proven popular this holiday season.

"For Christmas, we had 50,000 picture messages sent and we may see an increase in picture messaging [for New Year] also," he said.

Telstra said in a 30 December statement that mobile phone calls made on Christmas Day on Telstra GSM and CDMA networks had also exceeded expectation this year, with about 15.1 million calls recorded.

With an expected total for all mobile networks in Australia over the New Year holiday of more than 50 million messages, smaller telcos also reaped benefits from increased messaging in the period.

Nathan Rosenberg, a spokesperson for Virgin Mobile, said Virgin Mobile -- which has its own Short Messaging Centre (SMSC) but uses the Optus network -- saw a 300 percent increase in messaging on New Year 2002.

"Basically it looks like we had three million messages -- it was a really good year. Our customer base went from 200,000 to 400,000 in the last year but SMSs [on New Year] more than doubled," Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg said the spectacular increase would be partly down to Virgin Mobile's target 16 to 24-year-old user demographic. Younger people were big users of messaging, he pointed out.

"When there is a celebration, people just love to express how they feel with a text message," he said.

Virgin Mobile had carried out a survey of 18-30 year-old singles that suggested more than 95 percent of that demographic would send a text message on New Year's Eve.

Some 75 percent also said they expected to send or receive a 'flirtatious' text message, while 30 percent of users who were part of a couple claimed they would send flirtatious messages to someone other than their partner on New Year's Eve, the Virgin Mobile survey said.

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