The SMS phenomenon
Among the many events that marked 2001 to be significant, in the technology arena, the year will also be remembered for the coming of the Short Messaging Services (SMS) phenomenon. While the first short message in the world was sent out in 1992 and the technology was among the fastest growing areas in wireless data in Europe and Asia in 2000, it maybe said that 2001 saw the arrival of SMS in India. With close to 30,00,000 SMS messages being recorded daily, this year saw the technology entrenching itself into the Indian imagination. With technologies like Bluetooth and WAP still to catch on, SMS is being heralded as the hot new application with great commercial potential.


The early adopters were the youth who set out to master this 'not so easy to use' method of communication (yes, that's what it seemed then). But, once young people got their cellphones to transmit text, it was a mode of communication that proved to be addictive.thanks perhaps to the success of instant messaging and the Internet boom that preceded the SMS wave.


SMS allows users to send text messages of upto 160 characters on their mobile phones. These characters could be in words, numbers or in an alphanumeric combination. Non-text based messages are also supported.

The brief space available demanded that the maximum amount of information was conveyed with the minimum number of characters, and a whole new set of abbreviations evolved. Standard Internet symbols like smileys also found their way onto mobile phones to help break the abruptness of the medium.


SMS lingo

2day Today Kiss Keep It Simple, Stupid

2moro Tomorrow L8 Late

7k Sick Ltns Long time no see

Ruok? Are you Ok? Lol Laughing out loud

Asap As soon as possible Luv Love

AYT? Are You There? Nrn No Reply Necessary

Bcnu Be seeing you Oic Oh I see

Brb Be right back Prt Party

Btw By the way U2 You too

Bbiaf Be back in a flash U4e Yours For Ever

Cul8r See you later W8 Wait

F2f Face to face Wb Welcome Back

F2t Free to talk Wtg Way To Go!

Gr8 Great Wuf Where Are You From?

Imo In my opinion Xlnt Excellent


How it works?

SMS, which is part of the GSM world standard, belongs to a "store-and-forward" message system. This means that messages are not sent directly to the recipient, but to an SMS center, which forwards the message to its destination.

But the best part of using SMS is that you are very rarely told that the line is 'busy'. For, if the recipient is not available, the message is stored and sent later. This feature also opens up the possibility of the receipt of a confirmation once a message has been delivered.


Besides, while voice, data and fax calls take over a radio line for the duration of a call, short messages use the signaling path. This decreases the possibility of a traffic jam during peak hours.

Through SMS you can send messages to any other GSM mobile user anywhere in the world. PCS networks based on all the three technologies, GSM, CDMA and TDMA support SMS, making it a universal mobile data service.


The unexpected success story

Few people predicted that SMS would become the rage it eventually became. For starters, the technology was not very simple to use. But, it was this barrier that made young people more determined to crack it. Once they did, the conversion from early adoption to following was quick and that extent the technology grew faster.


There was also the initial attraction of a free service, for this was the form in which SMS first started out. Network operators had been unable to link prepay platforms, billing systems and SMS centers. So, while prepay phones supported SMS, prepay literature did not mention it. This meant that the first users almost stumbled into, adding to the fun element that came to be associated with the technology.

In India, network operators initially offered it as a freebie, in an attempt to hook the youth to their new offering. Even now, SMS is far cheaper than making a call.


When the network operators managed to implement a charging system, SMS declined to 25 to 40 per cent of pre-charging levels. Then, unexpectedly, the usage level gradually increased to pre-charge levels. SMS had arrived to stay.


The killer application?

Apart from charging for SMS, network operators are looking for a gamut of methods through which they can exploit the popularity of the new technology. In India, Yahoo! already lets surfers download their email over their cellphones. News, stock quotes and weather reports can be communicated using SMS too. Of course, your SIM card needs to be SMS enabled before you can get started.


The next wave of technology is also looking to get streaming video onto mobiles. It is still to be seen whether these experiments will meet with success.

Today, it is SMS and not WAP that has an addressable consumer base - this inspite of the fact that WAP was aggressively promoted by the information technology industry. SMS, which has one of the fastest service growth rates in consumer history, without a corresponding decrease in pricing, has very little to do with network operators. It is a choice made and championed by the consumer.

But, markets progress gradually, and India is no exception. It is yet to be seen whether the success of SMS will be a forerunner to greater popularity for WAP, as consumers look for value-adds to technology that goes beyond SMS itself!