Tue, Feb 15, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Text messaging soars over Lunar New Year break

By Lisa Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

The use of electronic messages soared to a record high during the Lunar New Year holiday in Taiwan, a sign indicating that text messaging is overtaking sending traditional cards or e-mails to convey seasonal greetings, local telecom operators said yesterday.

Lunar New Year holidays are usually the peak season for Taiwanese cellphone users sending greetings in text messages due to the convenience and lower tariffs, they said.

"The trend was more noticeable this year as the volume of text messages spiked to hit an all-time high," said Shih Mu-piao (石木標), a spokesman for the nation's top phone company, Chunghwa Telecom Co (中華電信).

"The younger generation is using more and more electronic messages to say hello to friends or spread love, because text messaging is more convenient and cheaper than making calls," Shih said, adding that Valentine's Day was another peak period for sending short text messages.

On Lunar New Year's eve, Chunghwa Telecom users sent 40 percent more text messages, or 16.64 million messages, than a year ago, according to the state-run phone company's tally.

"The volume has marked a new high. Overall, the growth was faster than we expected," Shih said. The performance has beat the company's estimate of a 30 percent annual expansion, he said.

The volume sent on the eve of Lunar New Year was more than fivefold the average 3 million messages a day during regular periods, according to Shih.

Taiwan Cellular Corp (台灣大) and Far EasTone Telecommunications Co (遠傳電信), Taiwan's two largest privately run wireless service providers, also said text messaging on cellphones are taking over the use of old-fashioned cards, or e-mails.

"The growth rate is remar-kable," said Josephine Juan (阮叔祥), director of Taiwan Cellular's public affairs division.

The volume of short messages sent by Taiwan Cellular users leapt around 30 percent measured against the same period last year.

Taiwan Cellular subscribers sent 7 million text messages on Lunar New Year's eve, the mobile service provider said.

Far EasTone also saw the text message volume climb 20 percent, year on year, during the holiday.

But, Chunghwa Telecom's Shih said the explosive growth in text messaging will not boost the company's revenue this month, as data services still account for only a small part -- less than five percent -- of the company's total revenue.

Chunghwa Telecom said revenue fell slightly to NT$15.3 billion last month from NT$15.7 billion the previous month.

During the same period, Taiwan Cellular's after-profit revenue rose to NT$1.31 billion, or NT$0.27 a share, on lower revenue of NT$4.82 billion. Far EasTone said its pre-tax profits last month increased 4 percent month-on-month to NT$1.58 billion, or NT$0.41 a share, on higher revenue of NT$5.57 billion.

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