India Restricts SMS, Mobile Messaging Apps See Boost

Governments across the world have made attempts to restrict usage of messaging technology by its citizens for various purposes. The latest is the ban on bulk SMS and MMS by mobile users in India by the Government of India. The 15-day restriction, which was put into effect on August 18, restricts mobile users from sending not more than 5 SMS and MMS and also other restrictions on message size. The Government directed telecom operators to implement these restrictions in the wake of recent disturbances in the country, where it was inferred that messaging mechanisms like SMS contributed to widespread rumors, which fueled the unrest.

The telecom operators went ahead and brought it into effect immediately. But what happened next has been garnering all the attention in the press. Mobile Messaging applications like WhatsApp, Nimbuzz and many others have seen their popularity surge in the last weeks and all these platforms have declared record messages that their applications have handled.

WhatsApp, a cross Platform mobile messaging platform that simply lets usage exchange messages with each other announced that they hit a new daily record of 10 billion messages for the day. Nimbuzz, another mobile messenger application with more than 100 million users worldwide has also seen its downloads increase by 20% since the ban took effect. Nimbuzz also provides the Nimbuzz API to integrate its functionality in other applications. It would not come as a surprise if the surge was due to the SMS Ban by the Government, since SMS is highly used in India especially among the youth.

While the ban might not be having the intended effect, the choice of users has clearly been to go with applications that use their data plans and that puts the onus back on the Telcos to promote their data plans more aggressively. Networks and Apps that allow users to exchange chat messages over the network is definitely gaining widespread acceptance over the last year. Another example is that of Mxit, the South African Social Network that has a user base of 50 million+ users and even provides an API.

The latest news is that the Government has lifted the ban completely. The reason given has been that the unrest has subsided. While this is welcome news for consumers, it has not been a pleasant time for telemarketers, who run the SMS campaigns for corporates. They were estimated to have lost about  30% of their monthly revenues due to the SMS Ban.

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