SHORT MESSAGE SERVICE (SMS) is a text messaging service component of
most telephone ,
World Wide Web , and mobile telephony systems . It
uses standardized communication protocols to enable mobile phone
devices to exchange short text messages. An intermediary service can
facilitate a text-to-voice conversion to be sent to landlines. SMS
was the most widely used data application, with an estimated 3.5
billion active users, or about 80% of all mobile phone subscribers, at
the end of 2010.
SMS, as used on modern handsets, originated from radio telegraphy in
radio memo pagers that used standardized phone protocols. These were
defined in 1985 as part of the Global System for Mobile Communications
(GSM) series of standards. The protocols allowed users to send and
receive messages of up to 160 alpha-numeric characters to and from GSM
mobile handsets. Though most
SMS messages are mobile-to-mobile text
messages, support for the service has expanded to include other mobile
technologies, such as ANSI CDMA networks and
Digital AMPS .
SMS is also employed in mobile marketing , a type of direct marketing
. According to one market research report, as of 2014, the global SMS
messaging business was estimated to be worth over $100 billion,
accounting for almost 50 percent of all the revenue generated by
* 1 History
* 1.1 Initial concept
* 1.2 Early development
* 1.3 Support in other architectures
* 1.4 Early implementations
Text messaging outside
* 2 Technical details
* 2.2 Message size
* 2.3 Gateway providers
* 2.4 Interconnectivity with other networks
* 2.5 AT commands
* 2.6 Premium-rated short messages
* 2.7 Threaded
* 2.8 Application-to-person (A2P)
Satellite phone networks
* 2.10 Unreliability
* 2.11 Vulnerabilities
* 2.11.2 Limitation
* 2.12 Flash
* 2.13 Silent
* 3 See also
* 4 References
* 5 External links
SMS messages sent monthly in the United States (in billions)
Adding text messaging functionality to mobile devices began in the
early 1980s. The first action plan of the CEPT Group
GSM was approved
in December 1982, requesting that, "The services and facilities
offered in the public switched telephone networks and public data
networks ... should be available in the mobile system." This plan
included the exchange of text messages either directly between mobile
stations, or transmitted via message handling systems in use at that
SMS concept was developed in the Franco-German
GSM cooperation in
Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert. The
optimized for telephony, since this was identified as its main
application. The key idea for
SMS was to use this telephone-optimized
system, and to transport messages on the signalling paths needed to
control the telephone traffic during periods when no signalling
traffic existed. In this way, unused resources in the system could be
used to transport messages at minimal cost. However, it was necessary
to limit the length of the messages to 128 bytes (later improved to
160 seven-bit characters) so that the messages could fit into the
existing signalling formats. Based on his personal observations and on
analysis of the typical lengths of postcard and
Hillebrand argued that 160 characters was sufficient to express most
SMS could be implemented in every mobile station by updating its
software. Hence, a large base of SMS-capable terminals and networks
existed when people began to use SMS. A new network element required
was a specialized short message service centre, and enhancements were
required to the radio capacity and network transport infrastructure to
The technical development of
SMS was a multinational collaboration
supporting the framework of standards bodies. Through these
organizations the technology was made freely available to the whole
The first proposal which initiated the development of
SMS was made by
a contribution of Germany and France into the
GSM group meeting in
February 1985 in Oslo. This proposal was further elaborated in GSM
subgroup WP1 Services (Chairman Martine Alvernhe, France Telecom)
based on a contribution from Germany. There were also initial
discussions in the subgroup WP3 network aspects chaired by Jan
Audestad (Telenor). The result was approved by the main
GSM group in a
June '85 document which was distributed to industry. The input
SMS had been prepared by
Friedhelm Hillebrand (Deutsche
Telekom ) with contributions from Bernard Ghillebaert (France
Télécom ). The definition that
Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard
Ghillebaert brought into
GSM called for the provision of a message
transmission service of alphanumeric messages to mobile users "with
acknowledgement capabilities". The last three words transformed SMS
into something much more useful than the prevailing messaging paging
that some in
GSM might have had in mind.
SMS was considered in the main
GSM group as a possible service for
the new digital cellular system. In
GSM document "_Services and
Facilities to be provided in the
GSM System,_" both mobile-originated
and mobile-terminated short messages appear on the table of GSM
The discussions on the
GSM services were concluded in the
GSM 02.03 "_TeleServices supported by a
GSM PLMN ._"
Here a rudimentary description of the three services was given:
* Short message Mobile Terminated (SMS-MT)/ Point-to-Point: the
ability of a network to transmit a Short Message to a mobile phone.
The message can be sent by phone or by a software application.
* Short message Mobile Originated (SMS-MO)/ Point-to-Point: the
ability of a network to transmit a Short Message sent by a mobile
phone. The message can be sent to a phone or to a software
* Short message
Cell Broadcast .
The material elaborated in
GSM and its WP1 subgroup was handed over
in Spring 1987 to a new
GSM body called IDEG (the Implementation of
Data and Telematic Services Experts Group), which had its kickoff in
May 1987 under the chairmanship of
Friedhelm Hillebrand (German
Telecom). The technical standard known today was largely created by
IDEG (later WP4) as the two recommendations
GSM 03.40 (the two
point-to-point services merged) and
GSM 03.41 (cell broadcast).
WP4 created a Drafting Group Message Handling (DGMH), which was
responsible for the specification of SMS. Finn Trosby of Telenor
chaired the draft group through its first 3 years, in which the design
SMS was established. DGMH had five to eight participants, and Finn
Trosby mentions as major contributors Kevin Holley, Eija Altonen,
Didier Luizard and Alan Cox. The first action plan mentions for the
first time the Technical Specification 03.40 "Technical Realisation of
the Short Message Service". Responsible editor was Finn Trosby. The
first and very rudimentary draft of the technical specification was
completed in November 1987. However, drafts useful for the
manufacturers followed at a later stage in the period. A comprehensive
description of the work in this period is given in.
The work on the draft specification continued in the following few
years, where Kevin Holley of Cellnet (now Telefónica O2 UK) played a
leading role. Besides the completion of the main specification GSM
03.40 , the detailed protocol specifications on the system interfaces
also needed to be completed.
SUPPORT IN OTHER ARCHITECTURES
Mobile Application Part (MAP) of the SS7 protocol included
support for the transport of Short Messages through the Core Network
from its inception. MAP Phase 2 expanded support for
introducing a separate operation code for Mobile Terminated Short
Message transport. Since Phase 2, there have been no changes to the
Short Message operation packages in MAP, although other operation
packages have been enhanced to support CAMEL
3GPP Releases 99 and 4 onwards, CAMEL Phase 3 introduced the
ability for the
Intelligent Network (IN) to control aspects of the
Mobile Originated Short Message Service, while CAMEL Phase 4, as part
3GPP Release 5 and onwards, provides the IN with the ability to
control the Mobile Terminated service. CAMEL allows the gsmSCP to
block the submission (MO) or delivery (MT) of Short Messages, route
messages to destinations other than that specified by the user, and
perform real-time billing for the use of the service. Prior to
standardized CAMEL control of the Short Message Service, IN control
relied on switch vendor specific extensions to the Intelligent Network
Application Part (INAP) of SS7.
SMS message was sent over the
GSM network in the
United Kingdom on 3 December 1992, from
Neil Papworth of Sema Group
Systems ) using a personal computer to Richard Jarvis of
Vodafone using an Orbitel 901 handset. The text of the message was
The first commercial deployment of a short message service center
(SMSC) was by
Aldiscon part of
Logica (now part of
Acision ) with
TeliaSonera ) in Sweden in 1993, followed by Fleet Call
Nextel ) in the US, Telenor in Norway and BT Cellnet (now O2 UK)
later in 1993. All first installations of
SMS gateways were for
network notifications sent to mobile phones, usually to inform of
voice mail messages.
The first commercially sold
SMS service was offered to consumers, as
a person-to-person text messaging service by Radiolinja (now part of
Elisa) in Finland in 1993. Most early
GSM mobile phone handsets did
not support the ability to send
SMS text messages, and
Nokia was the
only handset manufacturer whose total
GSM phone line in 1993 supported
SMS text messages. According to
Matti Makkonen , the
SMS text messages,
Nokia 2010 , which was released in
January 1994, was the first mobile phone to support composing SMSes
Initial growth was slow, with customers in 1995 sending on average
only 0.4 messages per
GSM customer per month. One factor in the slow
SMS was that operators were slow to set up charging systems,
especially for prepaid subscribers, and eliminate billing fraud which
was possible by changing SMSC settings on individual handsets to use
the SMSCs of other operators. Initially, networks in the UK only
allowed customers to send messages to other users on the same network,
limiting the usefulness of the service. This restriction was lifted in
Over time, this issue was eliminated by switch billing instead of
billing at the SMSC and by new features within SMSCs to allow blocking
of foreign mobile users sending messages through it. By the end of
2000, the average number of messages reached 35 per user per month,
and on Christmas Day 2006, over 205 million messages were sent in the
TEXT MESSAGING OUTSIDE GSM
SMS was originally designed as part of GSM, but is now available on a
wide range of networks, including 3G networks. However, not all text
messaging systems use SMS, and some notable alternative
implementations of the concept include J-Phone 's _SkyMail_ and NTT
Docomo 's _Short Mail_, both in Japan. Email messaging from phones, as
popularized by NTT Docomo's i-mode and the RIM
BlackBerry , also
typically uses standard mail protocols such as SMTP over TCP/IP .
In 2010 , 6.1 trillion (6.1 × 1012)
SMS text messages were sent.
This translates into an average of 193,000
SMS per second.
become a huge commercial industry, earning $114.6 billion globally in
2010. The global average price for an
SMS message is US$0.11, while
mobile networks charge each other interconnect fees of at least
US$0.04 when connecting between different phone networks.
In 2015, the actual cost of sending an
SMS in Australia was found to
be $0.00016 per SMS.
In 2014, Caktus Group developed the world's first SMS-based voter
registration system in Libya. So far, more than 1.5 million people
have registered using that system, providing Libyan voters with
unprecedented access to the democratic process.
SMS is still a growing market, traditional
SMS is becoming
increasingly challenged by
Internet Protocol -based messaging services
Facebook Messenger ,
WeChat (in China) and
Line (in Japan), available on smart phones with data connections. It
has been reported that over 97% of smart phone owners use alternative
messaging services at least once a day. However in the
Internet-based services haven't caught on as much, and
to be highly popular there. One of the reasons is because the top
three American carriers have offered free
SMS with almost all phone
bundles since 2010, a stark contrast to Europe where
SMS costs have
Enterprise SMS-messaging, also known as application-to-peer messaging
(A2P Messaging) or 2-way SMS, continue to grow steadily at a rate of
4% annually. Enterprise
SMS applications are primarily focused on CRM
and delivering highly targeted service messages such as
parcel-delivery alerts, real-time notification of credit/debit card
purchase confirmations to protect against fraud, and appointment
confirmations. Another primary source of growing A2P message volumes
is two-step verification (alternatively referred to as 2-factor
authentication) processes whereby users are delivered a one-time
SMS and then are asked to enter that passcode online in
order to verify their identity.
Short message service technical realisation (GSM)
The _Short Message Service—Point to Point (SMS-PP)_—was
originally defined in
GSM recommendation 03.40, which is now
3GPP as TS 23.040.
GSM 03.41 (now
3GPP TS 23.041)
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.
Messages are sent to a short message service center (SMSC), which
provides a "store and forward " mechanism. It attempts to send
messages to the SMSC's recipients. If a recipient is not reachable,
the SMSC queues the message for later retry. Some SMSCs also provide
a "forward and forget" option where transmission is tried only once.
Both mobile terminated (MT, for messages sent _to_ a mobile handset)
and mobile originating (MO, for those sent _from_ the mobile handset)
operations are supported. Message delivery is "best effort ," so there
are no guarantees that a message will actually be delivered to its
recipient, but delay or complete loss of a message is uncommon,
typically affecting less than 5 percent of messages. Some providers
allow users to request delivery reports, either via the
of most modern phones, or by prefixing each message with *0# or *N#.
However, the exact meaning of confirmations varies from reaching the
network, to being queued for sending, to being sent, to receiving a
confirmation of receipt from the target device, and users are often
not informed of the specific type of success being reported.
SMS is a stateless communication protocol in which every
is considered entirely independent of other messages. Enterprise
SMS as a communication channel for stateful
dialogue (where an MO reply message is paired to a specific MT
message) requires that session management be maintained external to
Transmission of short messages between the SMSC and the handset is
done whenever using the
Mobile Application Part (MAP) of the SS7
protocol. Messages are sent with the MAP MO- and MT-ForwardSM
operations, whose payload length is limited by the constraints of the
signaling protocol to precisely 140 bytes (140 bytes * 8 bits / byte =
1120 bits). Short messages can be encoded using a variety of
alphabets: the default
GSM 7-bit alphabet , the 8-bit data alphabet ,
and the 16-bit
UCS-2 alphabet. Depending on which alphabet the
subscriber has configured in the handset, this leads to the maximum
individual short message sizes of 160 7-bit characters, 140 8-bit
characters, or 70 16-bit characters.
GSM 7-bit alphabet support is
GSM handsets and network elements, but characters in
languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or Cyrillic
alphabet languages (e.g., Russian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Bulgarian,
etc.) must be encoded using the 16-bit
UCS-2 character encoding (see
Routing data and other metadata is additional to the
Larger content (concatenated
SMS , multipart or segmented SMS, or
"long SMS") can be sent using multiple messages, in which case each
message will start with a
User Data Header (UDH) containing
segmentation information. Since UDH is part of the payload, the number
of available characters per segment is lower: 153 for 7-bit encoding,
134 for 8-bit encoding and 67 for 16-bit encoding. The receiving
handset is then responsible for reassembling the message and
presenting it to the user as one long message. While the standard
theoretically permits up to 255 segments, 6 to 8 segment messages are
the practical maximum, and long messages are often billed as
equivalent to multiple
SMS messages. Some providers have offered
length-oriented pricing schemes for messages, however, the phenomenon
SMS gateway providers facilitate
SMS traffic between businesses and
mobile subscribers, including
SMS for enterprises, content delivery,
and entertainment services involving SMS, e.g. TV voting. Considering
SMS messaging performance and cost, as well as the level of messaging
SMS gateway providers can be classified as aggregators or
The aggregator model is based on multiple agreements with mobile
carriers to exchange two-way
SMS traffic into and out of the
operator's SMSC , also known as LOCAL TERMINATION MODEL. Aggregators
lack direct access into the SS7 protocol, which is the protocol where
SMS messages are exchanged.
SMS messages are delivered to the
operator's SMSC, but not the subscriber's handset; the SMSC takes care
of further handling of the message through the SS7 network.
Another type of
SMS gateway provider is based on SS7 connectivity to
SMS messages, also known as INTERNATIONAL TERMINATION MODEL. The
advantage of this model is the ability to route data directly through
SS7, which gives the provider total control and visibility of the
complete path during
SMS routing. This means
SMS messages can be sent
directly to and from recipients without having to go through the SMSCs
of other mobile operators. Therefore, it is possible to avoid delays
and message losses, offering full delivery guarantees of messages and
optimized routing. This model is particularly efficient when used in
mission-critical messaging and
SMS used in corporate communications.
SMS gateway providers are providing branded SMS
services with masking but after misuse of these gateways most
countries's Governments have taken serious steps to block these
INTERCONNECTIVITY WITH OTHER NETWORKS
Message Service Centers communicate with the Public Land Mobile
Network (PLMN) or PSTN via Interworking and Gateway MSCs .
Subscriber-originated messages are transported from a handset to a
service center, and may be destined for mobile users, subscribers on a
fixed network, or Value-Added Service Providers (VASPs) , also known
as application-terminated. Subscriber-terminated messages are
transported from the service center to the destination handset, and
may originate from mobile users, from fixed network subscribers, or
from other sources such as VASPs.
On some carriers nonsubscribers can send messages to a subscriber's
phone using an Email-to-
SMS gateway . Additionally, many carriers,
AT&T Mobility ,
T-Mobile USA , Sprint , and Verizon
Wireless , offer the ability to do this through their respective
For example, an AT"> GPRS is offered by smaller telco players as a
route of sending
SMS text to reduce the cost of
Many mobile and satellite transceiver units support the sending and
SMS using an extended version of the
Hayes command set ,
a specific command language originally developed for the Hayes
Smartmodem 300-baud modem in 1977.
The connection between the terminal equipment and the transceiver can
be realized with a serial cable (e.g.,
USB ), a
Bluetooth link, an
infrared link, etc. Common AT commands include AT+CMGS (send message),
AT+CMSS (send message from storage), AT+CMGL (list messages) and
AT+CMGR (read message).
However, not all modern devices support receiving of messages if the
message storage (for instance the device's internal memory) is not
accessible using AT commands.
PREMIUM-RATED SHORT MESSAGES
Reverse SMS billing ,
Mobile search , and
Short messages may be used normally to provide premium rate services
to subscribers of a telephone network.
Mobile-terminated short messages can be used to deliver digital
content such as news alerts, financial information, logos, and ring
tones. The first premium-rate media content delivered via the SMS
system was the world's first paid downloadable ringing tones, as
commercially launched by Saunalahti (later Jippii Group, now part of
Elisa Grous), in 1998. Initially only
Nokia branded phones could
handle them. By 2002 the ringtone business globally had exceeded $1
billion of service revenues, and nearly $5 billion by 2008. Today,
they are also used to pay smaller payments online—for example, for
file-sharing services, in mobile application stores, or VIP section
entrance. Outside the online world, one can buy a bus ticket or
beverages from ATM, pay a parking ticket, order a store catalog or
some goods (e.g., discount movie DVDs), make a donation to charity,
and much more.
Premium-rated messages are also used in Donors Message Service to
collect money for charities and foundations. DMS was first launched at
April 1, 2004, and is very popular in the
Czech Republic . For
example, the Czech people sent over 1.5 million messages to help South
Asia recover from the
2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami .
Value-added service provider (VASP) providing the content submits
the message to the mobile operator's SMSC(s) using an TCP/IP protocol
such as the short message peer-to-peer protocol (SMPP) or the External
Machine Interface (EMI) . The SMSC delivers the text using the normal
Mobile Terminated delivery procedure. The subscribers are charged
extra for receiving this premium content; the revenue is typically
divided between the mobile network operator and the VASP either
through revenue share or a fixed transport fee. Submission to the SMSC
is usually handled by a third party.
Mobile-originated short messages may also be used in a premium-rated
manner for services such as televoting . In this case, the VASP
providing the service obtains a short code from the telephone network
operator, and subscribers send texts to that number. The payouts to
the carriers vary by carrier; percentages paid are greatest on the
SMS services. Most information providers should
expect to pay about 45 percent of the cost of the premium
SMS up front
to the carrier. The submission of the text to the SMSC is identical to
a standard MO Short Message submission, but once the text is at the
SMSC, the Service Center (SC) identifies the Short Code as a premium
service. The SC will then direct the content of the text message to
the VASP, typically using an IP protocol such as SMPP or EMI.
Subscribers are charged a premium for the sending of such messages,
with the revenue typically shared between the network operator and the
VASP. Short codes only work within one country, they are not
An alternative to inbound
SMS is based on long numbers (international
number format, e.g. +44 762 480 5000), which can be used in place of
short codes for
SMS reception in several applications, such as TV
voting, product promotions and campaigns.
Long numbers work
internationally, allow businesses to use their own numbers, rather
than short codes, which are usually shared across many brands.
Additionally, long numbers are nonpremium inbound numbers.
SMS is a visual styling orientation of
SMS message history
that arranges messages to and from a contact in chronological order on
a single screen. It was first invented by a developer working to
SMS client for the BlackBerry, who was looking to make
use of the blank screen left below the message on a device with a
larger screen capable of displaying far more than the usual 160
characters, and was inspired by threaded Reply conversations in email.
Visually, this style of representation provides a back-and-forth
chat-like history for each individual contact. Hierarchical-threading
at the conversation-level (as typical in blogs and on-line messaging
boards)is not widely supported by
SMS messaging clients. This
limitation is due to the fact that there is no session identifier or
subject-line passed back and forth between sent and received messages
in the header data (as specified by
SMS protocol) from which the
client device can properly thread an incoming message to a specific
dialogue, or even to a specific message within a dialogue. Most smart
phone text-messaging-clients are able to create some contextual
threading of "group messages" which narrows the context of the thread
around the common interests shared by group members. On the other
hand, advanced enterprise messaging applications which push messages
from a remote server often display a dynamically changing reply number
(multiple numbers used by the same sender), which is used along with
the sender's phone number to create session-tracking capabilities
analogous to the functionality that cookies provide for web-browsing.
As one pervasive example, this technique is used to extend the
functionality of many Instant Messenger (IM) applications such that
they are able to communicate over two-way dialogues with the much
SMS user-base. In cases where multiple reply numbers are used
by the enterprise server to maintain the dialogue, the visual
conversation threading on the client may be separated into multiple
APPLICATION-TO-PERSON (A2P) SMS
SMS reached its popularity as a person-to-person messaging,
another type of
SMS is growing fast: application-to-person (A2P)
messaging. A2P is a type of
SMS sent from a subscriber to an
application or sent from an application to a subscriber. It is
commonly used by financial institutions, airlines, hotel booking
sites, social networks, and other organizations sending
SMS from their
systems to their customers.
In the USA, A2P messages must be sent using a short code rather than
a standard long code .
SATELLITE PHONE NETWORKS
All commercial satellite phone networks except
ACeS and OptusSat
support SMS. While early Iridium handsets only support incoming SMS,
later models can also send messages. The price per message varies for
different networks. Unlike some mobile phone networks, there is no
extra charge for sending international
SMS or to send one to a
different satellite phone network.
SMS can sometimes be sent from
areas where the signal is too poor to make a voice call.
Satellite phone networks usually have web-based or email-based SMS
portals where one can send free
SMS to phones on that particular
Unlike dedicated texting systems like the Simple Network Paging
Protocol and Motorola's ReFLEX protocol,
SMS message delivery is not
guaranteed, and many implementations provide no mechanism through
which a sender can determine whether an
SMS message has been delivered
in a timely manner.
SMS messages are generally treated as
lower-priority traffic than voice, and various studies have shown that
around 1% to 5% of messages are lost entirely, even during normal
operation conditions, and others may not be delivered until long
after their relevance has passed. The use of
SMS as an emergency
notification service in particular has been questioned.
Mobile security § Attack based on SMS
-webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em; list-style-type:
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