All SMS Messages are Equal…or Not?

Giovanni Benini, Director of Product Management - Global SMS – January 5, 2015

SMS equalAll humans are equal, or at least created equal, according to the American constitution. But, as we all know, we are actually all very unique given the differences in our backgrounds, characters, capabilities, and sheer luck. So, let’s revert to something much simpler than a human being: SMS: Just 160 characters in length, a text message is something that has been specified in its handling by hardened GSM specs from the beginning of the mobile era.

Apart from its individual content, an SMS should be therefore like any other SMS, right? Well, no. Even SMS messages are different and here are a few reasons why:

  1. Delivery Quality. The reliability and speed of message delivery depends heavily on the chosen route. For example, how good the connection is to the sending network and its connection to the receiving network, as well as how to determine the correct receiving network in the first place given mobile number portability.
  2. Feature Support. This refers to what type of SenderIDs are supported (alphanumeric, long or short number), what encodings (e.g. Unicode for special characters) are supported, and messaging delivery receipt capabilities.
  3. Cost. Due to the non-regulated nature of SMS, unlike voice services, the mobile operators can agree on any price for SMS delivery. Plus, some networks are still open to receiving SMS messages without charging for it – either consciously or not. This leads to very different costs for each route chosen despite all arriving to the same destination.

These three reasons create a vast range of differences for each SMS, especially considering that on top every country is different in its regulations. And, depending on the use case, different requirements and priorities apply – and there can be indeed very creative use cases for SMS.

This is much more variety than expected for 160 characters!

Notwithstanding these challenges, more and more companies are getting on board with SMS to help them better engage with their customer and employees and optimize their business operations. We have seen a growing trend of enterprises across industries implementing company-wide use cases like security, IT operations, marketing, human resources, and customer service. Why are so many global enterprises investing in a 160 character message with so much variation across the world? The answer is simple – ubiquity and popularity – with more than 3 billion people now owning over 6 billion mobile devices, messaging is the preferred channel of digital communication for both customers and employees (including the increasing number of millennials in the workforce). And it’s effective – SMS provides many operational efficiencies, communication and security benefits that appeal to businesses today. And despite being an “aged” technology, it is surprisingly future proof as outlined in a previous blog.

OK, now what about the challenges in handling the various differences outlined above? Well, companies like OpenMarket with deep domain expertise are here to help you find the best mobile service match for your organization’s needs. So if you’re one of the many global enterprises looking to integrate SMS into your existing communication strategy, let us know.

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