Analysis firm Ovum studied global use of popular services like Whatsapp, Blackberry Messenger and Facebook chat.
It concluded that mobile operators must “work together to face the challenge from major internet players”.
Industry experts say operators can offset any losses through effective costing plans by mobile networks.
The report gathered usage statistics from the leading social messaging applications typically used on smartphones across the world.
As well as well-known names from popular social networks in the Western world, the study also included apps such as MXit – a massively popular program used mainly in South Africa.
Social messaging apps make use of a smartphone’s internet connection to send messages rather than the usually far costlier SMS – short message service – system.