Message gods smile on text-mad revellers
The popular 9pm NYE fireworks ... the view from Mrs Macquarie's Chair, Sydney. NYE saw Australians everywhere take to their phones to wish others well. Photo: Wolter Peeters
It seems the telecommunication gods smiled upon a nation of smartphone users on New Year's Eve, with all three main carriers reporting "really pleasing" network performance under the predicted weight of millions of text-mad revellers' wishes.
While SMSs and MMSs were still being sent and phone calls still being made as some of the first in the world to see in the new year caught up with their family and friends elsewhere, Telstra, Vodafone and Optus said their infrastructure planning and preparation for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day had paid off.
"The numbers are still being tallied, but from what I have seen our predictions have well and truly been met. We anticipated 70 to 90 million SMS messages over New Year's Eve and January 1 and already we're over the halfway mark," Vodafone spokeswoman Karina Keisler said on the morning of January 1.
Telstra NYE app. Photo: Telstra
She said a steady stream of texts had been sent through until 5pm on the last of day of the year, when the numbers soared: almost 30 million texts were sent after 5pm on the Vodafone network, nearly 8 million of these in the very last minutes of 2012 and first minutes of the new year.
"Aussies kept up the momentum throughout the early hours - it wasn't until 4am that we saw fewer than 1 million texts sent in the hour," she said.
Vodafone also saw a 53 per cent increase in image and video (MMS) messages sent over its network on December 31.
Telstra had expected more than 61 million text messages to be sent over its network and attempted to pre-empt some of those by offering 50 free missives to people using its New Year's Eve app. Users were able to prepare messages to be sent automatically at midnight.
A Telstra spokesman said preliminary numbers indicated an increase in text and picture messaging across its network compared with last year.
"The peak period took place between midnight and 1am when we saw a noticeable surge in traffic. Today [Tuesday] remains a busy day for text messaging across the nation," he said.
"Given the demand for mobile use in Sydney last night, the performance of our mobile network was pleasing. We attribute this to the added network capacity we installed in the most popular venues to help people stay connected."
Twelve mobile base stations located around Sydney Harbour had been upgraded in preparation and four temporary base stations deployed to the area, including the Domain, to cope with increase in traffic.
The spokesman said network capacity upgrades at key celebrations points in Melbourne (around the Southbank area past Birrarung Marr through to Melbourne Park and the beachfront at St Kilda), Brisbane (Southbank precinct along the Brisbane River) and Perth (Fremantle, Northbridge, Scarborough and Dunsborough areas) had been expanded permanently to cater for major events and peak traffic periods.
Revellers on the NSW South Coast weren't so lucky, with reports the influx of smartphone-toting tourists to the region caused a cyber traffic jam on December 31.
Meanwhile, 11 per cent of the text messages sent to be displayed on the Sydney Harbour Bridge made it. As promised, Telstra took "1600 of the best" to put up in lights, from the 14,000 sent by hopefuls.
A handful of Twitter users questioned the novelty, with one suggesting a time queue should have been displayed on the app so that senders would know when to watch out for their wishes.
The Telstra app was developed in conjunction with the City of Sydney. A Telstra spokesman said the company had only received positive feedback on its performance, although again a handful of people on Twitter labelled the app a #fail.
A Telstra spokesman said the ability to send messages in advance was very well received and there was "great potential in this feature for future use".
He said 600,000 people watched the Sydney fireworks live via Telstra's YouTube channel.
An Optus spokesman said the company did not yet have final figures, but felt the network performed well under the strain. It had forecast 72 million New Year's text messages would be sent.
"We did a lot of planning for two to three months beforehand, plus we had the advantage of 4G in Sydney and Melbourne to help us control [congestion]," an Optus spokesman said.