Four years from now, people will be sending a whopping 160 trillion messages to one another through SMS, instant messaging, social media and email. That is about 438 billion messages sent every day in 2019.

Mobile and online digital marketing research firm Juniper Research predicts that within the next 12 months, instant messaging will overtake email as the preferred form of communication between consumers and enterprises. In 2014, email accounted for 35 trillion messages sent every year, the largest slice of the traffic, but Juniper Research says 80 percent of all those emails, or some 28 trillion, could be regarded as spam.

Meanwhile, instant messaging will go on to become the most popular form of communication, with Juniper Research predicting that 43 trillion messages will be sent via mobile messaging apps in 2019.

The report notes that the growing popularity of instant messaging can be attributed to the relatively low cost of using instant messaging apps, such as Facebook's WhatsApp, Snapchat and Tencent's QQ in China. WhatsApp alone sees more than 30 billion messages sent among its users every day, while Snapchat continues to grow and is believed to have nearly 200 million users.

Also, social media websites such as Facebook and Instagram continue to see more usage, with Facebook having more than 5 billion likes, posts and shares every day.

However, Juniper Research notes that SMS remains a preferred form of communication, especially for businesses hoping to reach more customers. Citing data gleaned from a study conducted by U.K. wireless carrier EE, the research firm says 99 percent of all SMS messages are read by their recipients and 90 percent are read within the next three minutes of receiving them.

Therefore, the firm expects that "enterprise messaging," or business-to-customer messaging, especially in emerging markets where a good portion of the population still use feature phones, will continue to rise over the medium term as well as in places where mobile network coverage is unsatisfactory.  

"While there may be a trend towards OTT (over-the-top) messaging, SMS is always there in times when Internet access may be impossible, or 3G/4G coverage poor. Its reliability means that messages have a very low non-delivery rate," says Juniper Research. "SMS also maintains dominance in regions where featurephone use exceeds smartphone penetration, ensuring it is still a viable means of communication, at least in the medium term."

However, providers of OTT messaging platforms have monetization issues to contend with. As Steffen Sorrel, senior analyst at Juniper Research notes, a business model that lets people send messages for free "is not very robust."

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