SMS short for Short Message Service for mobile phones are as email to internet connected computers. Just as WAP short for Wireless Application Protocol for mobile phones are as HTTP to internet connected computers.

New mobile phones such as Nokia 7110 gives much better support for SMS and WAP. Inbox, outbox folders, and predictive text input helps make using SMS in mobile phones much more like using email on computers.

SMS has become a national pastime in Finland. Especially teenagers seem to say everything with a SMS these days. Want to ask a girl for a date, but don't have the guts to speak to her? No problem, just send a SMS. Forgot your best friend's birthday? Just send a SMS to apologize. This is probably due to the fact that Finland has the most cell-phones per capita in the world.

Of course some say that it's a plague rather than a pastime, that it's killing the social skills of the youth, but others claim the opposite, that people say things more freely when they dont have to say it directly to the person, eg. I have said many things to my girlfriend through a SMS that I probably wouldn't have had the guts to say to her directly at the time, saved us from many arguments.

A little example: I have about 100 SMS:s on my phone bill every month, in other words I write about 3 SMS:s per day, and thats on the low side, i have teenage friends (im 22 myself) who write over 400 SMS:s per month, imagine the sight on their parents faces when they get the bill.
SMS is extremely popular among those with service providers using GSM. Of course, in Europe, that's everybody. In the U.S. and Canada, though, GSM is probably in third place in the digital popularity contest, behind CDMA (commonly referred to as PCS) and TDMA.

The SMS protocol has been ported to CDMA, allowing CDMA phones to receive messages, but the first version of the port did not allow the phones themselves to send messages. Thus, the only way to send CDMA users "text messages," as most providers refer to them, was through a web page. To add to the difficulty, CDMA SMS messages cannot be received while roaming off one's home network, unlike GSM SMS, which can be sent/received worldwide. The implication was simple -- SMS hasn't caught on nearly as well in America.

Update 4 January 2002: Perhaps CDMA SMS roaming is on the way. While in New York recently, presumably roaming on the Verizon Wireless NYC network (since nTelos stops in Winchester, VA), my nTelos phone received all my usual automated text messages (sports scores, etc.).

How to send an SMS text message

from a mobile phone to a mobile phone

(these instructions are fairly general, your handset may vary)
  1. Go to the phone's Menu
  2. select "Messages", "Text Messages", "SMS" or similar
  3. select "Compose message", "write message", "new message" or similar
  4. Begin to type your message.
    Write your message by pressing each number key the appropriate number of times for each letter. For example, to type "hello", key in:
    4 4 3 3 5 5 5 (left arrow) 5 5 5 6 6 6
    Note that you have to move on to the next character after the first L, this prevents the phone from thinking the additional keypresses on 5 are to move on to other characters after L on the same key.

    Special characters are often stored under 1, 0, * or #, or a seperate menu. Switch to lowercase by pressing the # key before the letter (for Nokias), holding down a number key (on Motorolas) or pressing * after the letter (Ericsson)

    Newer phones - all new Nokias and some from other manufactuers - support T9 Predictive Text Input. This reduces the amount of keypresses required for each word by guessing what word you wanted after just one press of each key.
    As an example, to type "hello", all you need to press now is:

    4 3 5 5 6
    Since that's the only English word you can make out of the letters on those keys, it guesses it and uses it for you. If the wrong word were to come up, (say, "no" instead of "on") press the * key to scroll through all the possibilities.
  5. Enter the menu again, and select "send message" or "enter number"
  6. Key in the number of the person you are sending the message to, or select one from the phone's memory. If it's in your country, just enter it as normal - eg, in the UK, 07700900009. If you are sending a message to a network in a different country, you must include the country code, eg +447700900009. Note that your operator may not allow you to send a message to every foreign network, and different charges may apply. Get in touch with them to confirm this.
  7. Your phone may also be set up to give you a message receipt - check the message settings to see if you can turn this on, or make the message's first three characters RCT (dependent on network). This will instruct the network to send you a confirmation that the message has been delivered to the recipient's phone - not necessarily indicating that it's been read.

from a mobile phone to e-mail

Using the Andrews and Arnold SMS gateway,
  1. Compose the message, as above, but with the first word of the message as the recipient's email address. If your phone does not have the @ symbol in it's character set, or you can't work out where it is, use the # sign instead.
  2. Send the message to +447973577510
    Note that your network may not allow you to send a message to this number, especially if you are abroad. This should cost the same as a regular text message. The recipient will have no way to reply to the email. Your network provider may offer a similar service, but allow it to have a 'from' address of your choice - check their web site to see if they do this.

    See for further information.

from the web to a mobile phone

There are numerous SMS gateway sites on the web, most of which are free and only some of which require registration.

Lycos probably provide the simplest of these, available across Europe at:

  • (UK)
  • (France - requires registration)
  • (Germany)
  • (Spain - requires registration)
  • (Italy)
By far the most comprehensive site is mtnsms, which does require registration, but can send messages to pretty much any network around the world, and also allows for replies.

from email to a mobile phone

To the best of my knowlege, there is no one email to SMS gateway. Probably just as well, as otherwise spammers could target entire number ranges @ that domain, to send cheap marketing to phone users. (Companies already send mass SMS messages to number ranges, but will be paying a few pence per message)

You will find, though, that network operators, email providers, and other assorted websites have gateways available. Sometimes this will take the form of mail notification (eg, 'you have a new message from...'), or sometimes the start of the whole message will be sent. I have a forwarding account with BT Cellnet's genie site, and all messages sent to my address there will go to my phone. As an extension of this, I've set up to point to my genie address, so I can use an alternative if that site spontaneously combusts.

Hopefully I've covered all SMSing eventualities, please /msg me with anything you find unclear, omissions, or questions.

By the way, try to bear in mind that sending text messages whilst inebriated may be regretted the next morning.

For me, two words describe SMS messaging. Incredible rort. 20+ cents (AUS) to send < 160 bytes to another handset? I think not. I would estimate cost to the network would be in fractions of cents, if that.

Don't forget that your handset is already constantly sending and receiving data with the network, just because it's turned on. Your phone may be showing which cell you are currently residing in. How do you think it knows this information?

Also don't forget that the cellular network was most likely provisioned and costed for without factoring in text messaging. However, text messaging cost to the network is surely negligible compared to the cost of carrying a call. SMS messaging is very likely to be close to 100% profit to your telco.

Wish it wasn't so damned addictive.

More than that, I wish I was CEO of one of those Telco's.

SMS messaging in Ireland is extremely popular; in 2001 over 1 million messages were sent daily on the Eircell network, for example (up 4,000% in 1999). Given the comparable customer base of Eircell's chief competitor Esat Digifone, we can arrive at a figure of almost 2 million SMS messages in total per day (for a population of 3.5 million).

At roughly 10p each (excluding tax), this means around £40m annually for sending less than 1% of voice traffic. Eircell even has such nerve that, a few years ago when its network blanked out completely for several days due to overloading, it offered all its customers free SMS messaging in compensation. Of course this is just like cigarette companies offering free packets to schoolkids for one day - the company got new SMS addicts.

Including tax, SMS messages with Eircell are 12.5p, so I'm sure the Government doesn't sneeze at £4m annually from SMS tax, either.

SMS is an absolute goldmine for telephone companies: Just think about it. In Norway you pay about 70 øre (i.e 0,70 kroner) per SMS Text message. A text message has about 160 bytes of information. That is 4,37 Kroner (or about UK£ 0,33 or about US$ 0,63) per kilobyte.

I believe GSM traffic (and speech) goes with 9600 bps (Bytes per Second). 9600 bps = 9.6 kbps = 576 kbpm

If the price of telephony was the same as the price for SMS, you would pay roughly 2500 kroner (UK£ 200 / US$ 280) per minute to talk using your cell phone.

Here's how an SMS message travels through the GSM network. The description is slightly simplified and doesn't go into technical details.

  1. The GSM handset sends the message to the SMS Center (SMSC), which stores the message for delivery
  2. The SMSC send an acknowledgement about the received message to the sender
  3. The SMSC tries to send the message to the receiving handset until the message times out
  4. When the receiving handset has received the message, it sends an acknowledgement to the SMSC, which deletes the message
       1. --->      3. --->
Sender         SMSC         Receiver
       2. <---      4. <---

Something that occured to me reading the SMS node, and not already mentioned.

SMS has been a tremendous revolution for the deaf people. Just think about it. The phone and every advance surrounding it, cell phones and everything, were completely useless to this grand category of people who either by accident became deaf, either were born deaf.

With SMS at last they could have access to something that we have for decades. Just think about a day or two of yours without a telephone. Ooops...

In one of those great marketing ploys that all companies wish for and dream about, if you ask a New Zealander about an SMS they would most likely give you a blank look. This is not because there aren't many cellphones - it is esitmated that there are over 2 million out there. No, the reason is because when it was introduced to New Zealand by Vodafone it was called Txt (pronounced text).

Because Vodafone cornered the youth market they have created a whole generation (and basically a whole country) that will forever know it as Txt. You can use it as a verb (Jeffrey txted Emma) or as a noun (Jeffrey got a txt from Emma).

On Vodafone a txt will cost you $NZ0.20 to send. This has meant that an unbelievable number (over 1.8 million per day in June 2003 in a country of just 4 million) get sent everyday and it is not uncommon to see someone trying to secretly txt from the middle of a classroom during a lesson.

Of course I'm sure that the name Txt is not isolated to New Zealand but is interesting to watch overseas programs on TV and to see them refer to it as SMS, even in Australia.

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