Glossary definition of SMS

Also known as: Short Message Service

Short Message Service (SMS) is available on digital mobile phone networks, and it allows a user to send and receive alphanumeric text messages of up to 160 characters on their digital mobile phone, or other hand-held device, via the network's SMSC (Short Message Service Centre). Although SMS was originally designed into GSM, it is now generally available on most networks that meet the 2G, 2.5G and 3G standards.

The SMS system works in a similar way to a paging service, and if the receiving mobile is switched off, or is out of range, then the message will be stored at the SMSC until the recipient can receive it. SMS is also useful to send operator information, such as alerting subscribers to the fact that voice messages are available. A range of mobile information services can be provided to mobile users by SMS, such as news, weather forecasts, sports results, stock market reports, etc. There are now further options to use SMS to connect with email and Internet services.

Due to the limitations of writing a message within 160 characters, a whole new language of abbreviations has developed for representing common words and phrases. Predictive text input software is another improvement (e.g. T9), which makes the writing of text messages quicker and easier using the small number of keys on a mobile phone. Although an individual SMS message is limited to 160 characters, it is possible to link several messages in series (called concatenation), which makes it possible to produce a longer message.

Text messaging has proved to be an extremely popular person-to-person method of communication, especially amongst young people, and it is now used as a standard method of sending messages for business as well as leisure. Part of the attraction of SMS may be that it is relatively cheap compared to a voice call, and it is possible to send a text message in situations where it is not practical to talk (e.g. in noisy environments), or when the recipient is not able to answer a normal voice call. Increasingly, businesses are charging for their services via the sending of premium rate SMS messages, which the subscriber will then pay for on their normal phone account, although this method is open to the same unfair practices that have plagued premium rate voice calls.

Phones tagged with SMS