Portugal has been 'sending' text messages for 27 years and peaked in 2012 with 27 million messages

The world's first SMS (Short Message Service) was sent 30 years ago, on December 3, 1992, by Neil Papworth, a telecommunications engineer with Sema Group Telecoms, UK.

The message, a "Merry Christmas" wish, was sent from Neil Papworth's computer to Vodafone's Orbitel 901 mobile phone.

The historic moment reached a new level in December 2021, when the first 15-character SMS was auctioned as an NFT ('Non Fungible Tokens' or 'Non Fungible Token') for 107 euros, during of an event organized by the Aguttes house in France. .

In Portugal, the messaging service was launched in October 1995, when TMN (currently MEO) and Telecel (currently Vodafone) were in the mobile operator market, according to data transmitted to the Lusa agency by the Autoridade Nacional de Comunicações (ANACOM).

In October 1995, Telecel first launched this feature for contract services, those that were not prepaid, a small percentage of customers, said Lusa Nuno Taveira, former SMS and messaging product manager at Vodafone.

The growth of SMS had a turning point in February 2000, when an agreement was signed between the three existing operators (after the emergence of Optimus in 1998, currently NOS) to allow users to communicate between the different networks , refers to the regulator.

The first data available from ANACOM dates precisely from 2000, when the number of text messages totaled 550 million, or about seven text messages per active user per month.

The peak of SMS traffic was reached in 2012, when each effective user sent 180 messages per month, out of a total of 27 messages.

Also according to ANACOM data, this number is decreasing. In 2021, 68 SMS were sent per effective user per month (-62% compared to 2012), i.e. a total of 10.

Another turning point for SMS in Portugal is the introduction of prepaid services, which have allowed a massification of mobile service, Teresa Salema, president of the Fundação Portuguesa das Comunicações, told Lusa.

“We have to remember that the mobile network develops first in the upper segments. It was only from 1995, with the introduction of prepaid services, that we had a great massification and, at that time, the written messages also appeared with more intensity and even reached absolute records he said, noting the appearance of “the famous MIMO, then developed by Portugal Telecom in the laboratories of Aveiro”.

There are currently more popular alternative means of sending messages, "instant messaging", such as via Whatsapp or Messenger applications, available for "smartphones" and which combine text with the possibility of sending images, sounds, documents or the popular GIFs.

In 30 years, SMS have experienced a peak in use and are now in decline. But its use for advertising and marketing, in terms of security, as an authentication factor, or the creation of a specific spelling, such as the use of "k" to say "that", are legacies that still endure. today.

The president of the Portuguese Communications Foundation said that, however, the technology currently available to society involves the integration of several factors.

“There are three things that are necessary, because in addition to equipment, you need access to networks, with the capacity and speed that we currently have with optical fiber or 5G. And the 'cloud' (cloud). These are the three things that make us have the services we currently have, ”he analyzed.

Teresa Salema, who in the early 1990s was at Companhia Portuguesa Rádio Marconi and has a three-decade career linked to the sector, also defended that technologies are present to "improve the quality of life, but also the health of the planet » .

Although there are now more efficient ways to send messages, Teresa Salema points out that all technologies eventually find their place.

“The fixed network has its space. And text messages also have their place,” he stressed.

In the case of SMS, its popularity and massive distribution via cellphones ended with another service that had previously gained relevance: pagers or “beep-beep” service, he recalled.

“Today we only have here at the museum what a written message like that looked like. It was almost like a telegram, so it was even shorter than an SMS”.

In addition, the Fundação Portuguesa das Comunicações, which is now 25 years old, has the double mission of “preserving and showing all the heritage of the communications sector in Portugal”, through the Museum of Communications, in Lisbon.

Teresa Salema said the history of communications is "much longer" than the decade in which SMS was born, and in Portugal it is "five centuries ago, in 1520, with the creation mail service”.

“At the time, King D. Manuel created the postal service precisely to support Portuguese maritime expansion. Because, obviously, all economic development is based on a communication network,” he stressed.

The Museum of Communications is currently presenting an exhibition that marks the 25th anniversary of its founding, where it is possible to "touch and experience objects" of old and working technologies, such as typewriters, fax machines, telex machines and certain equipment GSM. , including a Nokia with the famous 'Snake' game.


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