Text Messaging: Its Past, Present, and Future

InsightsJan 30, 2019
61% of users wish that SMS had more functionality.
Source: RCS Business Messaging Research Study – GSMA Future Networks and OpenMarket 2018

The very first SMS text message – which read “Merry Christmas” – was sent in 1992. In 2000, text messages were widely exchanged between networks, and by 2007 [1] Americans were sending and receiving more text messages than phone calls. SMS messaging gained even more traction with multimedia messaging and the widespread adoption of smartphones with touch keyboards. Today SMS remains an ever-present and efficient messaging service that reaches almost all the world’s seven billion mobile phones, but it is facing declining person-to-person (P2P) messaging traffic [2]. Rich Communication Services (RCS) is the next iteration of mobile messaging that can reverse this trend.

Despite the massive success of SMS and its impact on how we communicate, its features have fallen behind those offered by other messaging services. This lack of feature development has been noticed by its users and most (61%) [3] wish that SMS had more functionality. RCS provides this functionality while maintaining what has made SMS so successful: cross-platform availability and native integration. By combining universality and enhanced messaging features, RCS provides a unique messaging experience as a “one app solution” for messaging.

RCS as a “one app solution” also satisfies the wants of users to simply streamline their communication.[4] Currently, users spend 85% [5] of their smartphone time using apps. Billions of these users are spread across dozens of disparate messaging services and half express that they would stop using other messaging apps if SMS could offer enhanced messaging functionality in one place [6]. RCS allows mobile network operators to create that place.

51% of users agree that they would stop using other communication apps if SMS could offer the same functionality and more in one place
Source: RCS Business Messaging Research Study – GSMA Future Networks and OpenMarket 2018

The evolution of SMS to RCS doesn’t end with P2P messaging. SMS application-to-person (A2P) business messaging is already extensively used to interact with consumers, authenticate logins, send timely alerts, and more. A2P is estimated to be worth $70 billion by 2020 [7] and represents a strong growth market around the world with 1.6 trillion A2P SMS messages sent in 2017 [8]. RCS is perfectly positioned to enhance and maintain this growing service by offering the rich A2P features that organizations and users want.

RCS offers a unique combination: the enhanced messaging experience that third-party messaging services provide and the ubiquity of SMS text messaging. It is an opportunity for operators to play a central role in delivering modern messaging services and more than 65 mobile network operators and 11 OEMs have already recognized that RCS is the future of messaging. As more and more operators roll out RCS, this momentum will continue to entice users to this solution and finally deliver a truly modern universal messaging service.


[1] https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2008/in-us-text-messaging-tops-mobile-phone-calling.html

[2] https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/au/Documents/technology-media-telecommunications/deloitte-au-tmt-short-messaging-services-versus-instant-messaging-011014.pdf

[3] https://www.openmarket.com/resources/rcs-business-messaging-research-study/

[4] Ibid.

[5] https://www.gsma.com/futurenetworks/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Messaging_as_a_Platform.pdf

[6] https://www.openmarket.com/resources/rcs-business-messaging-research-study/

[7] https://www.marketresearchstore.com/report/a2p-sms-market-for-pushed-content-services-customer-z38850

[8] https://mobilesquared.co.uk/2018/02/18/global-a2p-traffic-growth-by-2022/