A “wave of consolidation” will occur in the social messaging market in 2014, according to a new report by research firm Ovum.

The recent acquisitions of WhatsApp by Facebook and Viber by Rakuten are signals that social communications, and particularly messaging, are becoming a core part of Over-the-Top (OTT) content services, whether their focused on social networking, online commerce or other purposes, Ovum says.

The firm expects consolidation to occur in the social messaging industry this year, and some players will become formidable forces with their new backing. As more of the mobile subscriber base becomes able to access data services there will be an even stronger migration toward social messaging services, Ovum says.

In its report, Ovum forecasts that data and social messaging services will have more than 2.6 billion subscribers by 2015. In addition to the growth in subscribers, the industry will see a widening in the breadth of services offered by messaging.

“Social messaging is a snapshot of things to come, and the traditional scope of messaging is already being tested,” Neha Dharia, consumer telecoms analyst at Ovum and author of the report, said in a statement. “Payments, media sharing and location are all being added to messaging platforms. In the long run, the opportunities for communications and messaging in particular are limitless, from motion sensors to gesture recognition to virtual screens projected on any surface.”

In 2014 we can expect to see a range of new services to be included on messaging platforms, Dharia said. “We will see them grow beyond messaging into complete mobile media platforms,” she said. “In fact, in the near future the services offered will be voice calls, video calls, messaging and utility services that are intuitive to users’ needs and move seamlessly between devices.”

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