While cell phone was designed as a voice communication medium, its digitized form enabled it to be used to carry other forms of communication as well. Digital and policy convergence allowed greater coherence between voice and data communication, to such an extent that data communication is as popular today as voice.
Short Messaging Service (SMS) is certainly the most popular form of data communication today. As of a 2004 estimate, some 500 billion text messages were being passed around the world, a figure of more than 100 SMSes per person per annum, generating combined revenue of more than $50 billion. In USA and Europe, in Asian countries like Singapore and Japan, SMS is immensely popular, a phenomenon that has had severe repercussions – academic, criminal, political, personal and social. Rules are still evolving. For example, in 2001 the Malaysian government decreed triple talaq (saying divorce in Islamic Sharia) by SMS invalid. Two years later a Malaysian court overruled the decree.
SMS is increasingly becoming a medium of choice – passing information in disaster situation (Tsunami 2004, Katrina, etc), exam or poll results, SMS polling, SMS voting, etc. The SMS lingo is seeping into normal conversation, a lingo that originally developed in internet chat rooms. With the younger population increasingly adept at using newer forms of technology, and their inherent sense of adventure, it is not a surprise that service operators are increasingly opting for SMS as a medium to sell goods, entice voting and other means.
Revenue sharing between mobile operators and service providers result in benefit to both sides, with the consumer being given greater choice in the final analysis. A whole new culture is being evolved, and in newer markets like China and India SMS novels have caught the craze of authors and readers alike.