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Mobile SMS as Greetings
Rather than conveying greetings via telephone as she had done in the past, Zhang Lan, a Shanghai Airlines employee, used her cell phone to send more than 20 text messages to her relatives and friends on the eve of Spring Festival.

On the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year on Saturday, Zhang Tao, a resident of northwestern Xi'an City, received more than 30 New Year's greetings in the form of text messages, and sent about 50 himself.

Millions of text messages conveying New Year's greetings flew through the air from one cell phone to another throughout China on the eve of the Spring Festival. In fact, they nearly paralyzed mobile phone grids in some areas.

Traditional Chinese culture dictates that people visit their distant relatives and friends during the Spring Festival, but that tradition is gradually giving way to phone calls, and more recently, to greetings via text messages.

By punching a few digits on the phone, a process which takes only a few minutes and costs just 0.1 yuan (1.2 US cents) per message, people have found that they can save not only time but also money, especially in the case of long-distance greetings.

By the end of last month, the number of mobile phone users was estimated at 210 million on China's mainland, compared to 149.9 million a year ago.

A sampling survey conducted before the festival showed that 35.1 percent of mobile phone users would choose short message service to convey their greetings during the Spring Festival, while 31.2 percent and 28.4 percent would use telephone and face-to-face visits, respectively.

Mobile phone operators predicted transmission of about 7 billion messages valued at 800 million yuan during the Chinese New Year period, which began on February 1 and ends on February 7.

About 33.19 million short messages were sent by Shanghai residents during the period from 8 p.m. on Friday to 2 a.m. on Saturday, about five times as many as on a normal day, according to data.

In addition to text messages, users of some new mobile phone models can also send color photos. In October, China Mobile introduced the multimedia message service via cell phone with an integrated camera, which already has about 20,000 users in Shanghai.

(Xinhua News Agency February 4, 2003)

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