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17 bln text messages predicted during Spring Festival
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Chinese mobile phone operators will benefit from the country's tradition of exchanging greetings during Lunar New Year as more than 17 billion text messages are expected to be sent during the holiday season, a possible new record, according to the Ministry of Information Industry (MII).

The projection means a 12-percent rise from the 15.2 billion of last Spring Festival, which was quite conservative if compared with the previous growth of 20-percent from the 12.6 billion during 2006 Spring Festival, sources with the Ministry said.

The ministry attributed the drastic rise to rapid expansion of mobile phone users which totaled 547 million by the end of 2007, about 41.6 percent of the total population.

MII statistics showed the Chinese cellphone users have sent 592.1 billion text messages last year, with a daily volume of more than 1.6 billion.

Calculated at the lowest cost of 0.1 yuan per message, the service has generated a daily revenue of 160 million yuan (22.2 million U.S. dollars) for China Mobile and China Unicom in total.

As the government is considering to scrap domestic roaming charges for mobile phones and launch a caller-pay schemes, the ministry predicted that cellphone users would increase at a faster pace than fix-line individual customers.

Another 60 million Chinese are expected to join in the troops of mobile phone users, lifting up the cellphone prevalence rate to 46.4 percent in 2008, it said.

To mark the Year of Rat in 2008, a plenty of messages were witty remarks using "Shu", or rat in Chinese, as a homophone to tease recipients for fun or to convey humorous greetings.

While many people indulge in the modern, convenient greeting mode, Liu Kuili, General Secretary and President of the China Folklore Society,said that new year greetings should avoid duplications.

"It's acceptable to deliver the same message to a group of people. But truly heartfelt greetings do not rest with well-tuned phrases but genuine feelings in simple words," he said.

Gao Hongjun, a salesman of five years in advertising business, ranked text messages as his last resort. "My preference would always be a face-to-face talk first and ringing them up, " he said.

(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2008)

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