Has the Short Message Service (SMS) reached the end of its useful life?

Each year Ofcom (the independent regulator for UK telecommunications industry) publishes statistics for the different forms of communications used across the UK. (Interestingly these are released on the same day as the annual statistics at the Office of National Statistics). These show top-level comparisons over the past two years for each communication type. The 2013/14 facts and figure were released on 6th August 2015 showing a comparison of 2014 to 2013 data.


There has been a significant reduction in levels of SMS and MMS messages sent per person. In 2013 the average number of messages sent per month was 138, reducing by 21 per person in 2014. This can be explained in part by the rapid uptake of 4G subscriptions up from 2.7 to 23.6 million, using messaging services over the 4G network such as ‘Whats App’.

Digging a little deeper on the Ofcom data, revealed additional information over the previous 6 years. This helps to show the trends for the UK population more clearly:

ofcom sms stats

The following table breaks down the annual figures between pre-paid and post-paid mobile users:







The media often publishes this information and talks of the decline of SMS and MMS messaging. What the statistics clearly show is that 93% of the population own/use a mobile phone in the UK, and using these handsets billions of messages are still sent each year. If the trend in the UK continues and devices still provide the facility for sending and more importantly receiving messages, then SMS / MMS becomes a more effective communications vehicle. As fewer SMS / MMS are sent, the messages become more significant and more likely to be opened and read.

Changing times lead to changing perspectives – mobile mediation

Just before the start of the Olympics, we wrote on a discussion group on the topic ‘How can IT revolutionise current mediation practices’. Interesting that Danny Boyle decided to pick up on the theme in the opening ceremony! Below is an extract from our post :

‘A parallel that springs to mind is the coming of the Industrial Revolution. In order to keep up with demands for different products, the cottage industries had to make way for automation. … In order to make mediation financially viable, administration costs need to be reduced and streamline where possible without affecting the client experience.’

 With many significant changes taking place in the family mediation arena over the next 8-9 months, inevitably this will result to the way mediations take place. We’ve already seen some services adapting by changing the where assessments and mediations are carried out. Rather than expecting clients to travel to a central office for meetings, we’re seeing mediators becoming mobile and meeting where it’s convenient for clients. Hence the term ‘mobile mediation’.

Moving towards this, managing appointments between mulitple outreach locations can be complicated – that’s why we’ve now integrated outreach location support in our case management system Progress Mediation. The ethos at the centre of our system, is flexibility – enabling mediators to work anywhere without boundaries.

The mediation service is setup on the system with each outreach location entered into the database. When a case is created, simply select from a dropdown where assessments or mediations are to take place.

When appointments are created in the mediator calendar, it links to the outreach location defined for the case and adds this to the appointment. Mediators and administrators can then view the system calendar to see where assessments / mediations are to take place. We’ve also added location colour coding to the appointments for added clarity.

Clearly if mediators are travelling to an outreach location to meet with clients, it’s essential that their time is not wasted when client’s don’t turn up. Therefore we’ve linked calendar appointments to a text messaging system. Text messages are sent out to clients the day before appointments to remind them about the meeting, giving opportunity to call and cancel if necessary.

Making the client central to the mediation is key to providing the a quality service. With changing times, comes a need to be flexible and adapt. Continuning with the Industrial Revolution analogy, unless the cottage industries adapted they simply ceased to exist. A sobering thought.