SMS text messages and their importance

In marketing, collection and business-to-business notification, the concept of “SMS” is increasingly heard. But what exactly is “SMS” and what makes it so important? In this article we explain the meaning of the acronym SMS, history, use cases and why it is increasingly important as a concept for business-to-customer communication.

SMS stands for “short message service”. It refers to the text messages available in most mobile phones before there were whastapp and facebook messenger or Google RCS or apple i-message, and is still used today for notifications of all kinds, especially when a 100% reliable and interactive mobile mass communication service is required.

SMS is the only means of communication compatible with 100% of mobile phones, it does not require the user to have a smart-phone or data, it does not depend on the operating system of the phone and has nationwide coverage.

This service was invented in 1985 by Matti Makkonen as part of the GSM digital mobile phone standard, and is currently available on a wide variety of networks, including 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G networks.

The SMS message is an alphanumeric string of up to 140 characters or 160 characters when no accents or special characters are used.

In principle, they are used to send and receive simple text messages, but there are extensions to the basic protocol that allow other types of content such as images (MMS) to be included, or several text messages to be chained together to allow for greater length.

Today there is also a new standard: Rich Communication Service, better known as RCS, which allows you to send text, image carousels, audio, video, buttons, stickers, pubictions and all kinds of rich content.

In GSM there are several types of text messages: “pure” text messages, configuration messages (containing the connection parameters for other services, such as WAP or MMS), WAP Push messages, MMS message notifications and the already mentioned RCS.

In this article we will limit ourselves to what is specified by the GSM standard, since the transport of all types of SMS is done in the same way.

Below is an example of a conversational SMS using a short code in a 4G Telcel network with zero cost MO, i.e. the brand pays for the message, not the user. Let’s see an example of a typical application for collection (collection via SMS).

What are SMS MT and SMS MO?

SMS messages were originally defined in the GSM standard as a means for network operators to send service information to subscribers, without them being able to reply or send messages to other customers.

These types of messages were called MT SMS (Mobile Terminated – Short Message Service, i.e. messages that arrive at the user’s terminal, i.e. his cell phone).

However, Nokia developed a system to allow two-way communication by SMS: messages sent by users were called MO SMS (Mobile Originated – Short Message Service, i.e. messages originating from the user’s terminal, i.e. his cell phone).

The text messages are processed by a “Short Message Service Center” (SMSC) that is in charge of storing them until they are sent and connecting them to the rest of the elements of the GSM network.

What is the SMS conversation?

The world of the internet has given strength to text over other means of communication such as print, call or face-to-face interaction. One of the growing areas is “chat” but via SMS, also called SMS chat or conversational SMS.

SMS chat has the advantage that it does not require data, internet or smart-phone, it works on any phone, it is not lost when you change your page (like a traditional web chat) and you can continue for days.

If you additionally use a zero cost MO line, the messages are free to users so the response rate increases by more than 30%.

Nowadays this conversational SMS is used in many areas such as sending interactive marketing promotions, payment reminders, collection negotiations or anti-fraud bank alerts. It can be sent to a chat with agents (contact-center) or to a robot also known as chat-bot or c-bot, or to a company process.

What is an MMS?

An MMS is a Multimedia Messaging Service. It arrives in the same tray as the SMS but can contain images, audios, videos and a longer text.

The MMS is being replaced by the new rich communication protocol called RCS – Rich Communication Service and adopted by some companies such as Google, owner of the Android operating system.

What is RCS?

RCS is a communication protocol created in 2007 by The Rich Communication Suite industry initiative. In 2008 the GSM Association officially took over the project to narrow down the definition and specifications. Three years later, the specification was launched, taking its official name of Rich Communication Services.

The Universal Profile standard was published, which allows carriers to launch RCS services easily and quickly via Google platforms.

Samsung is the first manufacturer to support RCS globally on device by 2015. Other manufacturers under the Android system are rapidly joining this initiative. Google supports RCS on Android devices as long as the user downloads the Android Messages app.

RCS is a standard that can be used for either person-to-person communication (also known as P2P) or for business client communication (known as A2P). When used in A2P communication it is called RBM which stands for RCS Business Messaging.

The RCS/RBM is already available in Mexico and Latin America for several dozen devices and is expected to increase service coverage by at least 80%.

Brands are rapidly adopting this technology due to its high graphic content, and improved customer experience thanks to image carousels and suggestion buttons, which increase customer interaction and contact by several percentage points.