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Sohu Enters Booming SMS Market

The NASDAQ-listed Internet portal Sohu.com announced over the weekend that the company has entered the booming short messaging service (SMS) market, which is forecasting robust growth in both subscribers and revenues for the second half of this year.

Feng Jue, vice-president of Sohu.com, said the company had over 1 million registered SMS subscribers as of July. Among them, 600,000 are active users of SMS.

"SMS is our first fee-charging service for visitors, and we are very optimistic that it will see strong growth and contribute larger revenues in the near future," she said.

Like other Internet portals such as Sina.com and Netease.com, both listed on the NASDAQ, Sohu was battered by the downturn in the NASDAQ stock market and is desperately seeking to turn its tens of millions of page views every day into real money.

At present, revenues from SMS account for only a single-digit percentage of the portal's total revenue, she said, declining to unveil the exact number.

The company has released more than 100 new (SMS) products including online train ticket booking, music, short messages and news. These products should strengthen Sohu's leading position in the SMS market, she said.

"The company would take full advantage of its leadership in news, online communications and entertainment and enable subscribers to get first-hand news and services first," she said.

The company currently sends out 300,000 messages on a daily basis, beating its closest rivals by 30 percent, she boasted.

Industry insiders estimate that the SMS market could exceed 1 billion yuan (US$120 million) this year.

SMS was introduced in 1994, but did not see widespread use until the second half of last year.

In October last year, 70 million short messages were transmitted, and that figure increased to 250 million in February this year.

Under some circumstances, SMS is an efficient, effective and convenient way to communicate with others. Moreover, it is much cheaper than making voice calls.

Some Chinese consumers have begun turning off their mobile phones during peak time periods to avoid paying high two-way charges.

Although they miss voice calls, SMS remains active so they can check SMS messages when they turn their phones back on.

SMS also provides value-added services with the help of independent information providers such as Sohu.

During the Sydney Olympics last year, China Mobile, China's largest mobile phone operator, cooperated with several Internet portals including Sina.com and Sohu.com to launch an Olympics information service.

(China Daily 07/16/2001)

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