Short-messaging services (SMS) in Hong Kong have hit their stride, with record numbers of text messages sent during the holiday season. One month after making SMS facilities interoperable, Hong Kong's six cellphone networks saw interoperator text traffic soar to nearly a million messages on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. According to communications software vendor Comverse, which provides the platform underpinning interoperator SMS in the SAR, the previous peak was 770,000 messages on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 'This level of traffic suggests that Hong Kong's mobile users have been quick to adopt short-messaging services between network operators,' said Yossi Shabat, Comverse vice-president for Asia-Pacific. 'We estimate that interoperator SMS has increased the total text message traffic in Hong Kong by more than two times, but there is still room to grow.' A spokesman for Hutchison Telecom, which has a market-leading subscriber base of 1.7 million out of the total 5.4 million mobile phone users in Hong Kong, estimated the company's SMS traffic grew 300 per cent from December 24 to 26. The spokesman declined to provide SMS traffic figures and said the company was not ready to release New Year's Eve and New Year's Day text traffic estimates. CSL, Hong Kong's second-largest mobile phone network, reported total SMS traffic from the middle of December to January 1 climbed 300 per cent on average, peaking at about 300,000 text messages sent on New Year's Day. That compares favourably with CSL's average daily SMS traffic of 60,000 text messages. 'CSL made up the biggest percentage of the interoperator SMS traffic that Comverse monitored during the recent holiday period,' a CSL official said. 'We have been ahead in offering international SMS and both our 1010 and One2Free customers can send messages simultaneously to multiple recipients, either via their handsets or the Internet.' Mr Shabat said the Christmas and New Year peaks of SMS traffic in Hong Kong were largely in the form of greetings messages, sent to individuals or as a broadcast. 'We forecast the growth in short-messaging between Hong Kong's networks will continue as users start to realise the benefits it brings to them,' he said. With the recent holiday interoperator SMS traffic as an indication, he predicted the volume of text messages during the Lunar New Year and on Valentine's Day would reach record highs. He said the Comverse-based SMS system of TCC, Taiwan's biggest Global System for Mobile (GSM) operator, carried more than four million short messages over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. 'Mobile greetings are growing spectacularly and we believe this user experience will pave the way for next-generation messaging services such as multimedia messaging service,' he said. All six GSM networks in Hong Kong started offering interoperable SMS on December 3, an eight-month delay from April last year, when operators originally promised to interconnect their systems. Mobile phone subscribers to Hutchison Telecom, CSL, SmarTone, Sunday, Peoples Telephone and New World Mobility are benefiting from a worldwide trend towards wireless data communications. Before the Government moved to get Hong Kong's six mobile phone operators to interconnect their SMS facilities, text messaging in the SAR could only be exchanged between users of the same network. Hong Kong's interoperator SMS is supported by Comverse's Intelligent Short Message Service Centre, a system that enables text messages to be processed and routed between the SAR's mobile phone operators. Rodney Yung, Comverse director of market development for the Asia-Pacific, said: 'Our system has removed all the complexity behind this interconnection and we expect Hong Kong mobile subscribers to enjoy the benefits of SMS that other countries around the world have experienced.' The worldwide growth of SMS stood at about 750 million messages a day by the end of September, according to estimates made by the GSM Association, an organisation made up of worldwide GSM network operators and equipment makers. Total SMS-generated messages last year should reach from 200 billion to 250 billion. Early worldwide market forecasts for the Christmas and New Year period, a peak time for text traffic, showed a total of six billion mobile-to-mobile messages were sent during the period - one for every person on the planet. Mr Shabat said: 'The growth in interoperator SMS traffic represents a big shot in the arm for the SAR's mobile networks, which can now see the importance of SMS and future enhanced messaging systems as a fast-growing revenue stream.' CSL chief executive Hubert Ng Ching-wah said SMS revenue would be significant to the company. He said interoperator SMS in Hong Kong enabled text messaging to offer an efficient communication alternative to voice services. Comverse, which has been operating in China since 1993, also counts Guangdong Mobile Communication as a key customer. With 15 million subscribers, Guangdong Mobile is the largest subsidiary of nationwide carrier China Mobile.