More and more enterprises are using notification systems to handle everyday messaging, emergency notifications and mass notification. Text messaging to cellular devices can play an important role in these communications, but it is important for organizations to understand the limits, costs, uses and risks of text messaging.
If your application requires several hundred text messages be sent at one time, the enterprise should consider using “true” SMS messages as part of the notification system strategy. When transmitting to smaller groups, it is feasible to utilize no cost SMTP messaging to cellular devices.
There are two ways to transmit a text message to a cellular device:
- Via SMS Protocol over the cellular network, addressed to the cellular device’s phone number. The SMS protocol is sometimes referred to as “True” SMS. Sending SMS messages always involves cost. SMS messages always make it into the cellular network, but may not be delivered to the cellular device for a variety of reasons.
- Via email, using the SMTP addressed to the cellular device’s email address. For example, to send a text message to an AT&T cell phone user, use the address format: firstname.lastname@example.org. Using SMTP to send messages to cell phones is free, but messages sent in bulk are likely to be blocked by the carriers SPAM filters set up at SMS gateways. When sending more than a few hundred messages at a time via SMTP, the enterprise risks messages not getting through. This method is not appropriate for mass notification.
SMS text messages can also be sent by a notification system using a Short Code provided by an SMS aggregator. Message aggregators charge upwards to five cents a message and there is a monthly cost for the Short Code.
Bulk plans can be purchased for various rates driving costs per message as low as a penny each. International costs also are higher for texting. Broadcasters should be aware that their costs to send messages are not the only costs involved with SMS. When using the native SMS protocol for text messages, the wireless network operators (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular, T-Mobile etc.) charge cell phone subscribers to receive text messages as well. If the message recipient does not have an unlimited text plan, additional costs may apply for message receipt. If the enterprise picks up cell phone usage costs for employees, then those costs should also be factored into the budget for the notification system.
Cell phones can also send and receive short email messages through the text message interface using SMTP email protocol. Notification systems using this method can send messages at no cost by the sender to cell phones. This method may be preferable for enterprise communications to smaller groups of message recipients.
Cellular text messages are typically limited to 160 characters and use very little bandwidth compared to a voice telephone call. These characteristics make text messages more likely to get through during stressful events, but enterprises need to understand that text messages can be unreliable and should not solely depend upon them during emergencies. A study published by UCLA indicated that the message delivery failure ratio is as high as 5.1% during normal operation conditions and can spike to levels greater than 30% during so-called “Flash Crowd” events.
There is no guarantee a text message will be delivered to a cellular device in either the SMS or SMTP delivery scenario. Therefore, when developing a messaging strategy it is important to take a multi-media approach to notification and consider voice, email, IM and secure messaging systems. When considering campus communications the use of Public Address systems, internal phone extensions, scrolling closed circuit TV feeds, social networks and RSS feeds should also be considered.
Mutare has several notification technologies enterprises can use to support communications for enterprise, emergency and mass notification including Enterprise Notification System, Text Notification System and Vital Link Secure Two-Way Communication System. Visit www.mutare.com for more details.
Terms used in this article:
- Aggregator: An SMS aggregator is an intermediary between mobile service providers who are providing SMS service. They include companies such 2SMS, Clickatell and Mblox.
- IM: Instant Message
- Short Code: A short code is similar to a phone number, but shorter, and it can only be used for messaging. Typically, short codes are five digits and can only be used to send or receive SMS or MMS messages.
- SMS: Short message service, a system that enables cellular phone users to send and receive text messages.
- SMS Gateway: A telecommunications network facility for sending or receiving Short Message Service (SMS) transmissions to or from a telecommunications network that supports SMS. Most messages are eventually routed into the mobile phone networks. Many SMS gateways support media conversion from email and other formats.
- SMSC: Short message switching center, is the portion of a wireless network that handles SMS operations, such as routing, forwarding and storing incoming text messages on their way to desired endpoints. Wireless network operators connect SMSCs through SMS gateways.
- SMTP: Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is an Internet standard for electronic mail (email) transmission across Internet Protocol.
Mutare is an independent software developer driven by a passion to make information access easier. Mutare develops unified communication, enterprise voice mobility, notification and self-service automation solutions. Mutare’s applications work with existing systems helping to increase revenues and lower costs. Mutare is what unified communications should be -- guaranteed. Learn more at www.mutare.com.