Celebrating 25 Years of SMS!

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SMS Expert, Sheri Wells, talks about how text messaging got started, went viral, and took the mobile industry by surprise.

It's been 25 years since the standardization of SMS (Short Message Service) was developed in 1985 by a collaborated effort between Germany and France. SMS was created by Friedhelm Hillebrand, Bernard Ghillebaert, and Oculy Silaban with the innovation behind it being short. SMS messages, commonly called text messages, are 160 characters in length. The organizations that created the standards made SMS technology freely available to the whole world. After 25 years, mobile subscribers have adopted text messaging as the new way to communicate because it's fast, easy and works on all cell phones.

The first text message ("Happy Christmas") was sent in on December 3, 1992 over the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom from Neil Papworth of Sema Group from an R&D lab using a personal computer to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone.

Text messaging was slow to take off due to wireless operators having to set up charging systems to mobile subscribers. Initially SMS was free for mobile subscribers, which is one of the reasons why it took off - it was free to text compared to being charged for voice. When operators began charging for the service, a decline of 25% to 40% of texting occurred; but because of the popularity of the channel, message volumes soon climbed back up. In the year 2000, the average number of monthly texts sent per user reached 35 compared to 357 messages per month now. Today, message volumes have reached 1.5 trillion annually in the United States.

Text messaging by nature is viral. Operators didn't even promote it until it became a success. Teens' texting was the primary factor in driving early SMS traffic. Teens would use the service because parents and teachers didn't know how and teens adopted SMS as their own communications channel. They could have a text conversation without others hearing, and an entire new language of acronyms was created to save time and to be hip to the channel. SMS became an important way for young people to communicate about their daily life.

In 2003, short codes were introduced in the U.S. market. Short Codes are 5 and 6 digit numbers used for message routing and management of SMS applications by companies and operators. Short Codes gave operators control and oversight of SMS programs on their network and a way to participate in data revenues that set the foundation for commercial services to come.

The introduction of premium services and ringtones was the next big thing to happen to SMS. Premium SMS allows billing to occur on the mobile subscribers wireless bill for products and services. From about 2003 to 2006, premium SMS was used for the downloading of artists' ringtones and participating in paid content services. Premium services are now declining due to consumer back-lash for additional charges. Standard Rate SMS services where the subscriber only pays according to their text-messaging plan are on the rise. Over the full-year 2009, worldwide text messaging generated in excess of $150 billion and that figure is forecast to reach $233 billion by the end of 2014.

The SMS channel is where the mobile audience is, and both operators and big businesses are realizing that SMS is the preferred form of communications by consumers. Not often does such a mass channel get created from grass roots efforts without a business model or commercial aspect behind it. The growth of SMS has taken the mobile industry by surprise, leaving operators and businesses scrambling to monetize and leverage the channel.

About Sheri Wells - http://SheriWells.com
Sheri Wells is recognized as one of the leading SMS messaging experts in the world, and has launched SMS campaigns and applications in over 200 countries for media brands and government agencies including Reuters, Nielsen, and BBG.gov. Her company, SMS Media Group, has an arsenal of SMS technologies for large enterprises, small businesses, ad agencies and operators.

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Sheri Wells
SMS Media Group, Inc.
888-681-3965 ext. 707
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