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ActiveXperts SMS Messaging Server Send, receive and automate SMS messages

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NOTE (1): ActiveXperts SMS Messaging Server is an SMS messaging framework to allow sending, receiving and processing SMS messages. It is designed to implement any project that requires SMS messaging. Read more »

NOTE (2): ActiveXperts SMS Component provides developers with a fast and reliable SMPP API. Simply connect to the SMPP provider, bind using your credentials and call SubmitSms to send out the messages. Read more »


Introduction to SMS and SMS Messaging Services

The Short Message Service (SMS), as defined within the GSM digital mobile phone standard that is popular in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and some parts of North America, has several unique features:

A single SMS can be up to 160 characters of text in length. Those 160 characters can comprise of words or numbers or an alphanumeric combination. Non-text based SMS' (for example, in binary format) are also supported.

SMS is a store and forward service, in other words, SMS' are not sent directly from sender to recipient, but always via an SMS Center instead. Each mobile telephone network that supports SMS has one or more messaging centers to handle and manage the short messages.

SMS features confirmation of message delivery. This means that unlike paging, users do not simply send an SMS and trust and hope that it gets delivered. Instead the sender of the short message can receive a return message back notifying them whether the SMS has been delivered or not.

SMS' can be sent and received simultaneously with GSM voice, Data and Fax calls. This is possible because whereas voice, Data and Fax calls take over a dedicated radio channel for the duration of the call, short messages travel over and above the radio channel using the signaling path. As such, users of SMS rarely if ever get a busy or engaged signal as they can do during peak network usage times.

Ways of sending multiple SMS' are available. SMS concatenation (stringing several short messages together) and SMS compression (getting more than 160 characters of information within a single short message) have been defined and incorporated in the GSM SMS standards.

SMS History

SMS was an accidental success that took nearly everyone in the mobile industry by surprise. Few people predicted that this hard of use service would take off. There was hardly any promotion for or mention of SMS by network operators until after SMS started to be a success. SMS advertising went from showing business people in suits entering text messages to bright pink and yellow advertisements aimed at the youth markets that adopted SMS.

SMS was the triumph of the consumer - every generation needs a technology that it can adopt as its own to communicate with - and the text generation took up SMS. Paradoxically, it was because SMS was so very difficult to use that the young people said that they were going to overcome the man machine interface and other issues and use the service anyway. The fact that the entry barriers to learning the service were so high were an advantage because it meant that parents and teachers and other adult authority figures were unlikely, unable and unwilling to use the service.

A whole new alphabet emerged because SMS messages took a long time to enter and were quite abrupt as people attempted to say as much as possible with as few keystrokes. Abbreviations such as 'C U L8er' for 'See you later' sprung up for timesaving and coolness. The use of smileys to reduce the abruptness of the medium and to help indicate the mood of the person in a way that was difficult with just text became popular.

The introduction of prepay mobile tariffs in which people could pay for their airtime in advance and thereby control their mobile phone expenditure was the catalyst that accelerated the take up of SMS. The network operators were unable technically to bill prepay customers for the SMS they were using because the links between the prepay platform and the billing system and the SMS Centers were not in place. The network operators responded with silence- the prepay literature did not mention SMS at all even though the prepay phones supported the service. One thing that is certain is that in these days with the Internet revolution to spread information, the young people will identify loopholes like this. And they did. Suddenly, millions more SMS messages were being sent- with some individual mobile phone subscriptions accounting for thousands of SMS per month alone as they set up automated message generators. Network operators worked with their platform suppliers to try and sort this out and implement charging for SMS for prepay customers. Meanwhile SMS incubated and spread and people were using it because it cost nothing whereas carrying out the same transaction using voice clearly did cost. Eventually after a few months the network operators finally got their act together and managed to implement SMS charging for prepay users- such that they could decrement the prepay credit by the cost of an SMS message.

A mass SMS message distribution campaign was then typically sent out- such that everyone that had used SMS received a text message informing them that from a certain date, SMS would be charged for. This led to an immediate and protracted decline in SMS usage to between 25% and 40% of the pre-charging levels as people suddenly stopped using SMS or using it as much. Then something interesting happened- the volume of SMS messages started gradually increasing again and soon reached its pre-charging levels. SMS volume growth has continued its upward growth ever since, fueled by simple person to person messaging as people told each other how they were feeling and what they were doing- information services and other operator led initiatives failed to interest the user community to any degree and never have done. Whilst it was free, SMS had become an important part of the way that young people communicated with each other in their daily life. SMS would have taken off without this prepay factor because it was already being used before that time- but it would never have taken off as quickly.

SMS continued its astonishing growth during the year 2000 in Europe, a period of time when the mobile industry was trying to dictate the deployment of WAP. Despite doing nearly nothing else of any benefit, WAP did at least increase the attention that the mobile Internet received as people tried to work out services that would appeal to the mobile phone users. Those companies that survived the WAP debacle started to realize that it was SMS and not WAP that had the addressable audience of users and the clearer business case. Advertising and other services based on SMS started to be trialed as companies realized that people who could use SMS for person to person messaging would also be able to access SMS based commercial messages.

The next great success for SMS based services was ringtones. Nokia had started its smart messaging protocol that was built on binary SMS rather than the standard text SMS. Nokia had expected this technology to be used for information services and over the air service profiling and it had languished for years, until suddenly in the year 2000, it found its application- ringtones that allow users to change the way their mobile phone rang. Because the network operators were woefully inadequate and unable to offer the ringtone suppliers fair and flexible revenue sharing, the service providers started using premium rate Interactive Voice Response (IVR) voice platforms to trigger the transmission of ringtones. The ringtones market soon became a billion dollar market- and few of the network operators even offered services- this category was dominated by independent service providers who advertised in newspapers and magazines.

SMS was the triumph of the consumer- a grassroots revolution that the mobile industry had next to nothing to do with and repeatedly reacted to. This is in stark contrast to the top down technology and industry led approaches to other nonvoice services such as WAP. The industry can learn a lot from SMS as it tries to create other nonvoice services- it is no surprise that the only other nonvoice success- i-mode in Japan was also an unprecedented and unexpected success. The mobile industry would do well to realize that success for nonvoice involves setting the right environment to allow services to succeed- ensuring everyone implements the same open standards in the same ways, putting the right payment and microbilling technologies in place and recognizing that it takes a while to build a critical mass of usage. The mobile industry needs to realize that it can either delay the mobile Internet revolution by refusing to cede control to the end user and application and service development communities- or this will be taken away from it by the markets by force. Either way, the nonvoice revolution will arrive- it is not a question of whether, just when.

SMS Glossary

  • 3G (Third Generation Wireless) - refers to planned developments in mobile communications. Increased Bandwidth, from 128 Kbps while moving at high speeds to 2Mbps for fixed stations, will enable multimedia applications and advanced roaming features. Bluetooth - a communications specification designed to enable PDAs, mobile phones, computers, and other devices to share information and synchronize data. This technology requires a transceiver chip in each device. Bluetooth products should enter the market in 2000-2001. Devices will operate in the 2.4Ghz band, sending data at 720 Kbps within a 30 foot range.

  • CDMA (Code Division Multiple Acess) - using military technology originally developed by the Allies in WWII, it spreads transmisions over all available frequencies. Conversations are assigned a code which is used to reassemble it upon arrival. This allows multiple calls to be carried over one channel.

  • CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) - a digital data transmission technology developed for cellular networks. Operating at 19.2 Kbps, it sends data over constantly changing open intervals in voice channels. If the system is busy, the data is sent when a channel opens up.

  • Cradle - a stand or bracket designed to hold a phone or handheld computer in place on your desktop, or mounted to your dashboard. It may incorporate recharging or data transfer functions.

  • EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment) - intended as incremental step toward 3G services. It operates at 384 Kbps, and enables multimedia transmissions and broadband applications for mobile phones and computers.

  • EPOC - an operating systems for handheld computers and mobile phones with Web access. It's an open operating system developed by Psion, and now licensed by Symbian. EPOC's main competitor is Windows CE.

  • GPRS (General Packet Radio Services) - provides packet-based, rather than circuit-switched connections on mobile networks. Data rates should range from 56 up to 150 Kbps. The as-needed (rather than dedicated) connections should bring down the cost of data services. Based on the GSM standard, this is an incremental step toward Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE) and 3G services.

  • GPS (Global Positioning System) - a satellite-based system for determining your location within 10 to 100 meters, depending on the accuracy of the equipment. Originally used for military and scientific applications, GPS receivers are now widely available in everything from cars to wrist watches.

  • GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) - the standard digital cellular system in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world. It is a variation on TDMA, with a data transfer rate of 9.6Kbps.

  • HDML (Handheld Device Markup Language) - a language that formats information for mobile phones or handheld computers in the same way that HTML does for PCs. It was originally developed by Unwired Planet (now phone.com) and is considered to be the forerunner of WML (Wireless Markup Language). Most current HDML browsers are capable of interpreting WML sites.

  • i-Mode - a packet based mobile phone service from Japan's NTT DoCoMo. I-Mode operates at 9.6 Kbps and uses a simplified version of HTML rather than WML. Its next generation system should support rates of 384 Kbps, enabling multimedia applications.

  • MSA/RSA (Metropolitan Statistical Area/Rural Service Area) - MSAs are cities with at least 50,000 people, or urban areas with at least 100,000, and the counties that include these areas. RSAs are all areas not included in MSAs. The FCC licenses and assigns freqencies in these areas, allowing multiple carriers.

  • Palm OS - the operating system originally designed for the Palm series of PDAs. Palm has since been purchased by 3Com, but they still develop and license the OS. Unlike operating systems used by other handhelds, the Palm OS is built to function on a particular type of device.

  • PCS (Personal Communications Services) - an all-digital set of cellular services operating in the 1850-1990 MHz bands. PCS technologies include CDMA, TDMA, AND GSM.

  • PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) - a small handheld device commonly used as a mobile computer or personal organizer. Many PDAs incorporate small keyboards, while others use touchscreens with handwriting recognition. Some of these devices have Internet capabilities, either through a built-in or add-on modem.

  • Pocket PC (formerly Windows CE) - an upgraded version of Windows CE that offers greater stability and a new interface. Features include mobile Internet capabilities, an e-book reader, and handwriting recognition.

  • Smartphone/Webphone - a mobile, digital telephone that has features not associated with traditional home or mobile phones. These features include Internet access, simple text messaging, and data services.

  • SMS (Short Messaging Service) - originally part of the GSM system, it refers to any text messaging service available on digital mobile phones.

  • TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) - divides cellular channels into three time slots, increasing data capacity. This lets multiple users or conversations to be carried on the same channel.

  • Two-way paging/Interactive paging/Two-way Messaging - sending and receiving data over the Web, via the paging network.

  • WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) - a set of standards that allows Web access on mobile devices. WAP is supported by most wireless networks and operating systems. It supports HTML and XML, but is designed for WML.

  • Web Clipping - the process of pulling specific information from a web page so that it can be displayed on a webphone or PDA.

  • Windows CE - a version of Windows designed to run on PDAs or other small devices. CE was renamed Pocket PC with the version 3.0 release.

  • WML (Wireless Markup Language) - a language developed to control the presentation of web pages on mobile phones and PDA in the same way that HTML does for PCs. Part of the Wireless Access Protocol (WAP), WML is an open standard, and is supported by most mobile phones.

  • XHTML - a reworking of HTML 4.0 designed to work as a application of XML. It allows anyone to create sets of markup tags for new purposes.

  • XML (Extensible Markup Language) - a standard for creating expandable information formats that allow both the format and the data to be shared. XML is similar to HTML in that both use tags to describe the contents of a document. However, while HTML only describes how the data should be displayed or used, XML describes the type of data. This allows anyone who can interpret those tags to use the data they contain.