BEIJING, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese lunar New Year usually witnesses two records: the world's most watched television gala show, and its busiest telecommunications network.
Rather than visiting families and friends and passing on good wishes in person on the first day of the lunar New Year, the Chinese have grown used to sending greetings from their mobile phones.
The Beijing branch of China Mobile, the country's biggest telecom operator, said that in the capital city alone, a total of 831 million text messages were sent on the eve before this year's Spring Festival, up 4.27 percent from a year ago. China Unicom Beijing also recorded a peak volume of 8,000 text messages per second around 7:45 p.m. that night, according to Sunday's edition of the Beijing Evening News.
However, while media once dubbed telecom operators the biggest money-maker on New Year's eve, industry insiders say the heyday for the short message service (SMS) may have passed.
A January report from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) said the Chinese sent 897 billion SMS messages in 2012, up only 2.1 percent year on year, whereas the number of mobile users gained about 11 percent to 1.1 billion.
At the same time, the country now has 564 million netizens, about 75 percent of whom can access the Internet from their cell phones, according to the MIIT report.
For many netizens and mobile users, staying online tweeting about the Spring Festival Gala Show run by China's state television is a "ritual" as important as watching the program itself.
"I brought my computer to the living room," netizen "robin_taoran" said on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like service, on lunar New Year's eve. "Watching the show on TV while tweeting on Weibo is a must, just like Chinese steamed bread goes with pickles."
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