Welcome to the Professional Australian SMS Induction E-Course! This is a 9 part series designed to shape your knowledge of the Australian A2P SMS industry. Throughout this E-Course you will be introduced to a variety of terms and abbreviations, click here to reference the definitions.
The History of SMS
In 1985, a gentleman named Friedhelm Hillebrand was responsible for deciding how long an SMS would be. After sitting behind his typewriter writing multiple messages, he noticed that all of his messages were under 160 characters. Through this test, Friedhelm came to the conclusion that 160 characters (140 bytes) was the perfect number. If you are keen to learn about how messaging bytes are calculated, click here.
Shortly after, Matti Makkonen invented the SMS text message while eating pizza during a telecom conference. The first SMS was sent just a year later by Group Telecoms.
Nokia debuted its first mobile phone equipped with SMS functionality, just one year after after the messaging solution was invented. After text messaging started working cross-networks in 1999, the messaging service exploded in popularity in 2002. That year 250 billion text messages are sent.
After the year 2000 the marketing industry realised that people who were able to receive SMS in person-to-person messaging could also receive marketing based messages. A2P messaging – application-to-person - was born.
The Rapid Expansion of SMS
SMS is the most widely used data application in the world. Currently, there are 3.7 billion unique mobile users, and 7.3 billion SIM connections. These numbers are expected to grow to 4.6 billion unique mobile users, and 10 billion global SIM connections by 2020.
SMS has grown from a simple chat service, to a fully functional tool used to enhance the way we live our lives. SMS usage varies internationally as the Philippines' use SMS to pay taxes, Africa to educate farmers, Netherlands for blood donation reminders, and Sweden to vote for their favourite artists.
Although WeChat, Line, WhatsApp and other popular internet based chat apps have taken the number 1 position for P2P SMS, the Short Message Service is still used and praised for it ubiquitousness: practically every handset in the world is capable of receiving SMS and the A2P market is still growing at a steady rate.
160 Characters is all you need
The continued longevity of SMS and popularity of services like Twitter are directly related to the limited number of characters available. The recipient can digest a message with a single glance, thus reducing the commitment to read it and therefore gives it the amazing 90%+ read rate.
In these modern times, you have about 2-3 seconds to get the attention of a potential client. These users want instant gratification, which means that you have 2-3 seconds to make an impact great enough to prompt an action. This means that the first 160 characters no mater what medium you use will ultimately determine the overall success of your campaign.
Short Message Service (SMS)
SMS stands for Short Message Service. Otherwise referred to as a Text Message, an SMS is 160 characters of text sent using a built in application on a mobile phone.
SMS operates as infrastructure, not requiring an internet connection to access. It is transmitted over carrier mobile networks on a separate system.
The term "SMS" is used for both the user activity and all types of short text messaging in many parts of the world. SMS is also employed in direct marketing, known as SMS marketing.
Multi-Media Messaging Service (MMS)
MMS stands for Multimedia Message Service, while it still operates over GSM networks, unlike text-only SMS, MMS can deliver a variety of media, including up to forty seconds of video, one image, a slideshow of multiple images, or audio.
Very high set up and message costs and lack of device support for the MMS protocol has led to minor adoption by businesses and marketers as a communication method.
While in theory the idea of receiving a picture or video and having it pushed to the user is great, and it is a common request for SMS companies to handle. The reality of the challenges involved leads to very small takeup in comparison to the effort required to set it up, therefore the margins are very small.
The other issue is that recipients don’t really appreciate it. Text messaging is such a personal and respected medium that getting this type of message and having no way to choose not to see it can be frustrating. Links to rich media within text messages have become more popular as they allow the option for the recipient to choose whether to look at it.
Another common request is the ability for virtual numbers to receive images via MMS. Again these types of services are available but again are expensive and have set up costs. When people can email hi res images from their phone, sending via MMS can seem superfluous and this is the method most companies will end up employing.
Application to Peer Messaging (A2P)
Application to Peer or A2P messaging refers to services that use a computer or server connected to the internet to talk to carriers that enable messages to be sent to mobile phones using computer programs or web applications. This type of messaging is commonly used for reminders, marketing and authentication type services.
Peer to Peer Messaging (P2P)
Peer to Peer or P2P messaging simply refers to sending messages from one phone to another. An SMS can be sent to any other phone in the world using a series of carrier agreements called Interconnects.
In the SMS world carriers are what is referred to as the MNO (Mobile Network Operator). In Australia we have three, Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Three and Virgin have now been absorbed into Vodafone and Optus respectfully. Carriers might also be referred to as Telco’s or MNP’s (Mobile Network Providers) when you are discussing SMS in business terms. For simplicity we will refer to them as carriers throughout this material.
All carriers sell SMS messages like they do phone calls. When a carrier sends a message to another carrier it charges an interconnect fee. This is generally why text messages have such a high perceived cost on a cost for data analysis and also why it costs more to send messages internationally. It is also why A2P message costs vary from carrier to carrier.
In January 2016 in Australia, a ruling was made by the ACMA to reduce all carrier interconnect fees to an insignificant amount. It is still yet to be seen what effect this will have on the industry as a whole.
CHARACTER COUNT AND CONCATENATION
A standard SMS is 160 characters in length. Every character in an SMS is counted and some characters require more data than others. As every 160 characters is paid for it is important to understand every nuance and method of economising character count as possible.