Malta avoids SMS for chat apps like WhatsApp and Messenger

The number of text messages sent via SMS is plummeting every year, indicating that people in Malta are dumping the technology in favor of free chat apps like WhatsApp and Messenger.

According to the Malta Communications Authority (MCA), the average mobile phone user sent 267 text messages last year, a decrease of 52% from 2017.

… could potentially indicate increased use of … platforms such as WhatsApp and Messenger– Communications Authority of Malta

The number of mobile calls, voice minutes and data usage increased over the same period.

Overall, the country sent 10.7 million fewer text messages in 2021 than the previous year, the MCA’s annual report says.

He said this “could potentially indicate increased use of … platforms like WhatsApp and Messenger,” from Meta, the company formerly called Facebook.

The report also points to another way people’s smartphone habits are changing.

More time spent on mobile calls

While the average user only marginally increased the number of phone calls made each year, the minutes spent on a voice call increased by more than a quarter.

In 2017, the average subscriber made 774 calls, rising slightly to 786 last year.

However, the number of minutes the average consumer spends on voice calls went from 1,463 to 1,855.

Overall, mobile voice minutes increased by 32.4 million last year.

The report says this shows how people are swapping their landlines for cell phones.

There was a 27% drop last year in the number of minutes and voice calls made on landlines.

The report notes that this “constitutes the largest year-over-year decline” since 2018 and “reflects changing consumption patterns when it comes to voice calls.”

‘Spectacular’ increase in the use of data

The growth in supply has also led to a “spectacular” increase in mobile data consumption, with a 30% increase in home mobile data usage in 2021, according to the report.

The reliance on mobile networks to stay connected contributed to the surge in the average data drive per subscription from 53GB in 2020 to 76GB, he noted.

By the end of last year, over 60% of Maltese fixed broadband consumers were subscribed to connections of 100 Mbps or higher as the demand for fast and ultrafast internet continues to grow.

This shift materialized against the backdrop of 5G rollout, he pointed out.

The report also showed how the volume of roaming calls increased, as people resumed travel after the lifting of travel restrictions due to the pandemic.

In 2021, the volume of inbound and outbound roaming calls increased by 23.5% and 8.3% respectively.

While the average user only marginally increased the number of phone calls made each year, the amount of minutes spent on a voice call increased by over a quarter.

The report says that while roaming has “recovered from the effects” of global travel restrictions, it is “not yet close” to pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, cell phone use returned to growth in 2021 after experiencing significant uncertainties in 2020, with subscriptions up 1.9% year-on-year, reaching 644,955 by the end of 2021.

The mobile industry has added nearly 12,000 new customers, with adoption growth characterized by stronger postpaid plans driven by the need for data connectivity on the go.

The main growth was positive for the TV segment as it increased by 3.8%, with a growth rate of pay-TV subscriptions of 2.9%, according to the report.

Epic inside the leading position

In terms of market share, Epic held a leadership position by the end of 2021 at 36.9%, slightly above GO’s 36.5%, while Melita’s stood at 25.6%.

Last year, the mail segment was negatively impacted by the effects of the pandemic, which accelerated the shift to online services, according to the detailed annual report.

Overall, mail volumes in 2021 decreased by 3.4% compared to the previous year.

The drop in mail volumes for 2021 was most pronounced for letters and bulk mailings, given the shift to online services, with letters and parcels down 13% and 8.4% respectively, according to the data.

This continued decline has continued to be countered by massive increases in packages and parcels caused by burgeoning eCommerce services.

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