NYE: busiest night ever for texting

As the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s, even before people kiss, pop champagne and throw confetti, many will be grabbing their smartphones.

Mobile networks are bracing for their busiest ever night for texting. It’s inconvenient, and distracting, to make phone calls over all the hubbub of noisemakers and Auld Lang Syne blasting at full volume.  So, most Americans will text each other. (And to be sure, many of the messages will be written in a less than sober state.)

Mobile advertising company Mojiva conducted a survey of smartphone users in the US and UK to find out how they planned on using their smartphone to celebrate the New Year, as Mashable first reported. Almost three-fourths of survey respondents in the US said they would use their phones to text family and friends, compared to just 64 percent who said they would pick up the phone and call.

Mobile networks are scurrying to make sure their services are operating at maximum capacity well into the early hours of 2013. Sprint reported that it would bolster its networks to support a 200 percent increase in traffic.

If mobile networks drop the ball, so to speak, the consumer backlash could be brutal. We’ve all had the frustration of being at a crowded concert, parade or sporting event, unable to send texts because the cell towers were overloaded. OMG. Tonight, that’s not an inconvenience many of us could tolerate.

Smartphone users will also rely on social networks and photo sharing service more than last year to connect with family and friends after the ball drops. More than half of US respondents to the Mojiva survey said they plan to use their smartphone to post on social networks, and 30 percent will use their phone to find which local restaurants and bars they can celebrate at.

And then there’s the matter of the countdown — about a third of people will be using their trusty smartphone to countdown the final seconds of 2012.

It’s not just Americans who will be tethered to the smartphones on New Years. UK media are reporting that networks across the pond are bracing for data usage to double this year compared New Year’s 2011. And the Japanese Telecommunications Carriers Association, fearing massive network congestion, has requested that users postpone sending text messages or making phone calls until few hours after the clock strikes midnight.

We can only hope Verizon and AT&T are better prepared than their Japanese counterparts.

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (205 Posts)

Heather Somerville is a business reporter covering venture capital and startups for the Bay Area News Group.