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Silenced with the Thumb

Posted July. 28, 2005 11:38,   


Cell phone subscribers are using their thumbs more than their mouths.

On July 27, KTF said that the number of text messages (SMS) sent (2,086,150,000) surpassed the number of voice calls made (2,046,690,000) for the first time in June.

Given that the middle-aged and the elderly tilt toward voice calls, the numbers mean that young mobile phone users talk to one another by punching in words with their thumbs rather than by actually calling.

SK Telecom and LG Telecom are also witnessing a similar pattern.

For SK Telecom, the number of sent text messages in June more than doubled to 2,813,000,000 from a year earlier when the figure was 1,358,000,000. But the number of voice calls made remained more or less the same. In June this year, it was 3,849,000,000 compared to 3,813,000,000 in June last year.

LG Telecom subscribers sent 814,280,000 messages in June this year compared to 505,670,000 messages in June last year, a 60 percent increase. But they made fewer calls. Over the same period, the mobile carrier saw just a 25 percent increase in the number of voice calls made, from 814,750,000 to 1,013,160,000.

KTF revealed, “According to our own survey, teenagers or those in their 20s send messages when they don’t have much to say. Currently, even customers in their 40s and 50s rely on text messages more often.”

A reason for the increased use of text messages is because mobile service providers have encouraged customers to send more text messages by offering a variety of price schemes. It costs 30 won to send a text message. If one signs up for a flat-rate product or features that give him discounts, he can write a text message of 40 words (Korean) at a lower price.

Last year, SK Telecom, KTF and LG Telecom made profits of 235 billion won, 111 billion won and 60 billion won, respectively.

Sang-Hoon Kim sanhkim@donga.com