MANILA (Reuters) - Filipinos doubled the number of text messages they sent last year to an average of 1 billion daily, industry data showed on Tuesday.
The Philippines is one of the prolific text messaging centers of the world with even the central bank governor sending monetary policy statements via mobile phone and an increasing number of consumers using their handsets for banking and bill payments.
For the estimated 8 million plus Filipinos who work overseas, texting is the main method of staying in touch with family back home. Text messages are also an important political tool and were instrumental in the overthrow of President Joseph Estrada in 2001 by alerting people to rallies.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), the country’s biggest telecoms group, said on Tuesday messages on its network hit a daily average of 700-750 million last year.
Rival Globe Telecom told Reuters about 300-400 million messages were sent daily on its network last year.
PLDT and Globe have over 50 million subscribers and the country’s mobile penetration rate is around 60 percent, compared with 35 percent in Indonesia, 75 percent in Thailand and 84 percent in Malaysia.
Napoleon Nazareno, PLDT’s chief executive, said up to 80 percent penetration is possible over the next two years as a rising economy enables more people to buy mobiles.
In 2006, 500 million text messages were sent daily and 250 million in 2005, according to the National Telecommunications Commission.
The popularity of text messaging is partly driven by cheap offers. Credit can be bought for as little as one peso (2.5 U.S. cents) and one mobile user can pass credits to another phone.
A SIM card can be bought for 50 pesos.
Editing by Carmel Crimmins and David Cowell