Short messaging in the mainland during the Lunar New Year-Valentine's Day week quadrupled last year's holiday traffic, with many users sending mass messages via Internet platforms or special phone features. The use of mass messaging for friendly purposes this year also raised a spectre of mass mobile spam - anonymous messages for commercial purposes - which is taking a hold in China. Although the Government has not released a holiday message total, industry sources say the number is up four to five times over Lunar New Year last year. On February 11 - New Year's Eve - China Mobile processed 100 million messages, and its flow of two million an hour in Beijing was about 25 times normal traffic. All of last week, on trains, in shopping centres and in homes, double beeps went off regularly to alert phone users of mobile text messages. Downloading holiday-specific ring tones and icons also proved popular. 'This trend shows that mobile data services are becoming more and more mature, and SMS [short messaging service] greetings have been widely accepted as part of a new and trendy lifestyle of the young generation,' said Nick Zhang, the chief executive of Linktone, a Shanghai-based messaging and mobile data provider. The firm reported that last week's message volume was more than five times that sent during last year's period. Messaging surged in the second half of last year, making a splash around Christmas and giving China Mobile 15.9 billion messages for the year. It received another boost early this year when China Mobile and China Unicom users in Beijing, Shanghai and Jilin were allowed to communicate directly with each other for the first time. However, during the holiday season, many messages were received unsigned, revealing only the sender's phone number and a code number for the intermediary provider used to send the message via China Mobile or China Unicom. Others were signed but written in impersonal ways. Both kinds of messages indicated that the same greeting was sent to a list of recipients. Danny Levinson, chief operating officer of Beijing Internet company Xianzai.com said: 'There is a little bit of worry' He said a friend received messages perplexing enough that she called to check who they were. Many message centres say they do not allow spam, which could cause a short-message intermediary company to lose favour with China Mobile. Sina .com, for example, allows users to send greetings to only two recipients at a time. Beijing-based mobile data platform GWcom business development manager David Cheng said the firm allowed only two transmissions per message to discourage unwelcome information from going out to strangers. Linktone spokesman Jeremy Lee said the firm had a special platform for companies to send clients greetings but did not open the platform for other uses. However, Xianzai offers restaurants and bars access to its platform to send group messages to would-be clients, for 10 fen (about HK 9 cents) per recipient. The latest Nokia and Siemens handsets also allow users to send messages to everyone in the phone's directory. People in the messaging industry say mobile spam is rare in big cities but the technology exists to hit everyone in a large database or a mobile-phone cell. Provincial-level providers already were allowing spam and some had lost licences, Mr Lee said.