Text spam growing problem with expense and annoyance

Eric Ariel Salas

Eric Ariel Salas

“You are qualified to win the daily lotto, to join please text back……”

I suspect that the number of text messages sent daily is growing very rapidly everywhere around the world. As per estimate, the sent rate is hundreds of billions per annum. With its wide coverage, text messaging has been the target of spammers, and text spamming is becoming a bigger problem than e-mail-based spam.

For over a year of owning a phone in the U.S., there were only few instances that I received text spams from the network provider. This is in contrast to what David Lazarus said in his article for the San Francisco Chronicle that millions of SMS spams are circulating already in the U.S., of which younger cell phone users who send the most text messages are usually targeted. What’s more, many cell phone subscribers face the double whammy of having to pay 10 cents for every text message received, whether read or unread, solicited or unsolicited.

I see this problem as worldwide and certainly not unique to U.S. mobile users only. If the U.S. sees this as a problem for their nearly 10 billion text messages sent every month, how much more for the much smaller country Philippines, tagged as the “SMS capital of the world”, which sends an average of 400 million text messages a day or approximately 142 billion text messages a year, according to a report late last year from the country’s telecom regulator, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). Every subscriber in the Philippines sends about 15-20 texts daily. That is more than all the SMS volumes of European countries, China and India. When you visit my country, do not be surprised if you see people texting while crossing a busy intersection, or eating in fine restaurants, or texting while eating or even dancing. Texting can be done simultaneously with every task Filipinos do. Didn’t I tell you that most Filipinos text without looking at the keypad?

At the end of 2007, the four main mobile-phone service providers in the country reported there were 43 million cell phone subscribers in the Philippines, up from 35 million a year earlier. It is expected that the trend will continue as providers continue to compete by providing low and affordable service offerings (only PHP 1.00 or USD 0.019 per text as compared to the USD 0.15 in the U.S.) and many promotional gimmicks. One of the famous services is the unlimited texting, regardless of the day and time, which subscribers truly buy. One more thing, only the sender is charged for the text!

While in the U.S., communication officials are acknowledging the emerging serious problem of spamming and are taking steps to make sure it doesn’t become more widespread. In the Philippines, the NTC may lift the moratorium on commercial text messages being broadcast over cellular phone networks. The agency may introduce a revised moratorium circular on deceptive “text spam” that must be complied by mobile phone companies and their content providers. However, this revised circular simply regulates spamming (maybe blocking a few messages). Not totally scrapping it off.

When I left the Philippines, mobile phone subscribers were sending thousands of complaints to NTC about their service providers billing them for receiving unsolicited text messages and annoying broadcasts.

Frankly, I am not seeing a rapid solution for text spams. With the millions of text messages sent a day, service providers will continue to look for ways to tap this frontier for easy profit and revenue. Spams will continue coming to each and every mobile phone!

Should I be glad that I am in the U.S.?

#1.882516:2780114954.jpg:ericsalace.jpg:Eric Ariel L. Salas, Foreign Eyes: