Short message service

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A received SMS being announced on a Nokia phone.

Short message service (SMS) is a service available on most digital mobile phones that permits the sending of short messages (also known as SMSes, text messages, messages, or more colloquially texts or even txts) between mobile phones, other handheld devices and even landline telephones. SMS was originally designed as part of the GSM digital mobile phone standard, but is now available on a wide range of networks, including 3G networks.

The first SMS is believed to have been sent in December 1992 by Neil Papworth of Sema Group from a personal computer (PC) to a mobile phone on the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom.


Technical details

The Short Message Service - Point to Point (SM-PP) is defined in GSM recommendation 03.40. This is separate from GSM 03.41 which defines the Short Message Service - Cell Broadcast (SMS-CB) which allows messages (advertising, public information, etc.) to be broadcast to all mobile users in a specified geographical area.

SMS messaging can be divided into two types - Mobile Terminated (MT) and Mobile Originated (MO). MT messages are SMS messages that are sent to the mobile handset. MO messages are those that are sent from the mobile handset.

Messages are sent via a store-and-forward mechanism to a Short Message Service Centre (SMSC), which will attempt to send the message to the recipient and possibly retry if the user is not reachable at a given moment. Message delivery is best effort, so there are no guarantees that a message will actually be delivered to its recipient and delays or complete loss of a message is not uncommon, particularly when sending between networks. Users may choose to request delivery reports, which can provide positive confirmation that the message has reached the intended recipient, but notifications for failed deliveries are unreliable at best.

The message payload is 140 bytes: either 160 7-bit characters, 140 8-bit characters, or 70 2-byte characters in languages such as Chinese, Korean, or Japanese when encoded using 2-byte UTF-16 character encoding (see Unicode). This does not include routing data and other metadata, which is additional to the payload size. Larger content can be sent segmented over multiple messages, in which case each message will start with a user data header (UDH) containing segmentation information. While the standard theoretically permits up to 255 segments, 3 to 4 segment messages are the practical maximum.

Short messages can also be used to send binary content such as ringtones or logos, as well as OTA programming or configuration data. Such uses are a vendor-specific extension of the GSM specification and there are multiple competing standards, although Nokia's Smart Messaging is by far the most common.


Short message services are developing very rapidly throughout the world. By mid-2004 texts were being sent at a rate of 500 billion messages per annum. At an average cost of USD 0.10 per message, this generates revenues in excess of 50 billion for mobile telephone operators and represents close to 100 text messages for every person in the world. Growth has been rapid; in 2001, 250 billion SMS were sent, in 2000 just 17 billion. SMS is particularly popular in Europe, Asia (excluding Japan and Korea) and Australia. Popularity has grown to a sufficient extent that the term texting (used as a verb meaning the act of cell phone users sending SMS text messages back and forth) has entered the common lexicon. In China, SMS is very popular, and has brought service providers large profit (18 billion SMS were sent in 2001 [1] (

It is particularly popular amongst young urbanites. In many markets, it is comparatively cheap. For example, in Australia a message typically costs between AUD 0.20 and AUD 0.25 to send, compared to a voice call, which costs anywhere between AUD 0.40 and AUD 2.00 per minute.

The most frequent texters are found in south-east Asia. In Singapore, hundreds of messages can be sent per month for free, after which messages cost between SGD 0.05 and SGD 0.07 each to send. The same pricing format is followed in the Philippines where the average user sent 2,300 messages in 2003, making it the world's most avid texting nation. SMS is a part in almost all marketing campaigns, advocacy, and entertainment. In fact, SMS is so influential, powerful, and addictive for Filipinos that several local dotcoms like *Chikka Messenger (, *GoFISH Mobile (, and *Bidshot ( now fully utilize SMS for their services.

Europe follows next behind Asia in terms of the popularity of texting. Users in Spain sent a little more than fifty messages per month in 2003. In Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom the figure was around 35–40 texts per month. In each of these countries the cost of sending a text varies from as little as 5 to 25 depending on the payment plan. Curiously France has not taken to texting in the same way, sending just under 20 texts per user per month. France has the same GSM technology as other European countries so the uptake is not hampered by technical restrictions. Part of the reason for the lack of uptake may be due higher prices due to weak competition in the mobile market - the key player Orange is owned by subsidized France Tlcom. However some telecom analysts suggest that this factor has dissipated in recent years and say that the reason may be cultural - text messaging is associated with a fast pace of life and France is more reluctant than others to dispense with its traditions.

In the US, however, the appeal of SMS is even more limited. Although a SMS usually costs only USD 0.05 (many providers also offer monthly allotments), only 13 messages were sent by the average user in 2003. The reasons for this are varied – many users have unlimited "mobile-to-mobile" minutes, high monthly minute allotments, or unlimited service. Moreover, push to talk services offer the instant connectivity of SMS service and are typically unlimited. Further the integration between competing providers and technologies necessary for cross-network texting has only been available recently. SMS is also typically an opt-in service in the United States - thus sending a message is much less a guarantee of receipt than in other countries. However the recent addition of AT&T-powered SMS voting on the television program American Idol has introduced many Americans to SMS, and usage is on the rise.

In addition to SMS votings, a different phenomenon has risen in more cell phone saturated countries. In Finland some TV-channels began "SMS Chat" which involved sending short messages to a phone number, and after a certain while the message would be shown in TV. Chats are always moderated, which prevents sending harmful material to channel. The craze soon became popular and evolved into games, first slow paced quiz and strategy games. After a while, faster paced games designed for television and SMS control have been designed. Classic cannon game and similar are quite suitable for that kind of entertainment. Games always involve registering one's nick name and after that, sending SMSs for controlling character on screen. Messages usually cost 0.5 to 0.86 euros a piece and one game requires sending dozens of messages. In December 2003 Finnish TV-channel MTV3 put on air Santa Claus character reading aloud messages sent by SMS. Some customers were later accused of "hacking" after they discovered a way to control Santa's speech synthesizer. More recent late night attractions on same channel include "Beach Volley", in which bikini-clad female hostess blocks balls "shot" with text-messages. On March 12 2004, first entirely "interactive" TV-channel "VIISI" began its operation in Finland.

Txt speak

Main article: txt

Missing image
The small phone keypad caused a number of adaptations in SMS linguistics.

Because of the limited message lengths and tiny user interface of mobile phones, SMS users commonly make extensive use of abbreviations, particularly the use of numbers for words (for example, "4" in place of the word "for"), and the omission of vowels, as in the phrase "txt msg". To avoid the even more limited message lengths allowed when using Cyrillic or Greek letters, some Eastern Europeans use the Latin alphabet for their own language.

In Mandarin Chinese, numbers that sound similar to words are used in place of those words. For example, the numbers 521 in Chinese ("wu er yi") sound like the words for "I love you" ("wo ai ni"). The sequence 478 ("si qi ba") sounds like the curse for "drop dead".

Predictive text software that attempts to guess words (AOL's T9) or letters (Eatoni's LetterWise) reduces the labor of time-consuming input. This makes abbreviations not only less necessary, but slower to type than regular words which are in the software's dictionary. However it does make the texts longer, often requiring the text message to be sent in multiple parts and therefore costing more to send.


Several telecommunication carriers have recently started offering so called premium rate short messages (PSMS), which through higher pricing and revenue sharing allow companies to be paid for their services by sending a short message. This is also becoming increasingly popular, but problems arise when "Get Rich Quick" companies abuse regulations and guidelines by not advertising premium pricing and whether it's a one off purchase or a subscription service.

PSMS services offer automated "alerts" sent on a regular basis giving news, weather, financial information, sporting event scores, and other information.

PSMS is also increasingly being used for "real-world" services. For example, some vending machines in the Far East now allow payment by sending an Premium Rated SMS; usually, the cost of the item bought is added to the user's phone bill. In Europe current E-Money regulations restrict the usage of PSMS and limit its use to the purchase of content that can be used on the mobile phone.

Some mobile phones allow long SMS messages (longer than the above mentioned limits) to be sent. This is accomplished by breaking up the long message into shorter messages and adding some code indicating that the messages should be strung together on the recipient's phone. In the industry these are known as concatenated messages. It should be noted, however, that this does not count as just one SMS; it is billed as multiple SMS messages depending on the length of the message.

An increasing trend towards spamming cell phone users through SMS has prompted cellular service carriers to take steps against the practice, before it becomes a widespread problem. No major spamming incidents involving SMS have been reported as of October 2003, but the existence of cell-phone spam has already been noted by industry watchdogs, including Consumer Reports magazine.

A few widely publicized speed contests have been held between expert Morse code operators and expert SMS users (see references). Morse code has consistently won the contests, leading to speculation that cellphone manufacturers may eventually build a Morse code interface into cellphones. The interface would automatically translate the Morse code input into text so that it could be sent to any SMS capable cellphone so therefore the receiver of the message need not know Morse code to read it. Other speculated applications include taking an existing assistive application of Morse code and using the vibrating alert feature on the cellphone to translate SMS messages to Morse code for silent, hands free "reading" of the incoming messages. Several cellphones already have informative audible Morse code ring tones and alert messages, for example: many Nokia cellphones have an option to beep SMS in Morse code when it receives an SMS text message. There are third party applications already available for some cellphones that allow Morse input for SMS (see references).

SMS has caused subtle but interesting changes in society since it became popular. Newsworthy events include (in chronological order):

  • In July 2001, Malaysia's government decreed that an Islamic divorce (which consists of saying "I divorce you" three times in succession) was not valid if sent by SMS.
  • In October 2003, a Filipino immigrant living in Belgium was arrested by police after a friend sent him a joke SMS pretending to be the world's most wanted terrorist. The SMS read 'I was wondering if I can stay with you for a couple of days. Everybody's so angry at me. And I really need a friend. Yours truly, Osama bin Laden.'.
  • In June 2004, a British punk rock fan was questioned by police, regarding a text message containing lyrics from "Tommy Gun" by The Clash 1 (,12780,1230607,00.html).
  • In December 2004, during the Romanian presidential elections, a chain SMS which contained a parody of a very well known poem written by the national poet, Mihai Eminescu, made the Central Electoral Bureau very nervous, because the campaign was over. The SMS said that if the receiver of the message votes with Adrian Nastase, then the sender will emigrate to Congo: "Şi dacă ramuri bat n geam / Iar tu votezi cu Bombo / Eu mi bag pula-n el de neam / Şi emigrez n Congo". An approximate translation: "And if branches touch my window / And you vote with Bombo [A.N.'s mockery nickname] / I'll fuck my country / And emigrate to Congo". It was so popular that Connex GSM and Orange, the two major operators in Romania, reported revenues comparable to those at New Year's Eve. Newspapers in the two African countries named Congo expressed concerns regarding the danger of mass Romanian immigration.
  • In February 2005, an Australian company by the name of Thesmszone [ a whole new world of SMS messaging. Their contraversial SMS spoofing service allows for messages that could be masked, anonymous and thus totally unidentifiable. With masked SMS's, it is possible to impersonate someone else by making the message to be originating from another phone. This opens up a whole new world of spam and possibly, mobile fraud, defamation and other uses for the techno-warrior of this era.

See also


External links


es:Servicio de mensajes cortos fr:Minimessage id:SMS it:SMS he:מסרון lb:Short Message Service ms:SMS nl:Short Message Service ja:ショートメッセージサービス lb:SMS no:SMS pl:SMS ru:SMS fi:Tekstiviesti sv:SMS zh:手機簡訊


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools