Short Wave

Service lets wireless users exchange text messages

A new service may jump-start the U.S. wireless text messaging market by making it much easier for a wireless user to send a message to a customer of a different wireless company.

TeleCommunication Systems (TCS), a messaging infrastructure company, said the hosting service, available today, will encourage content providers to use Short Message Service (SMS) technology instead of e-mail to deliver information.

"Its enabling the ability to address a message in a simple fashion, mainly by the simple information you already have — a phone number," said Charles Golvin, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. By making it easier for mobile workers using different handsets to communicate, the technology may allow companies to be more flexible when deciding to buy wireless phones for employees.

SMS, which is popular in Europe, allows wireless users to type in another users phone number and then send a text message using the keypad on the handset.

The offering has been available from a few operators in the U.S. for a short time, but is more complicated to implement here than in Europe because service providers in the U.S. use different technologies. As a result, an AT&T Wireless customer, for example, cant send a short message to a Verizon Wireless customer. Users can send e-mail messages between operators, but they must first log on to the Internet and type in an e-mail address instead of a phone number.

TCS hopes its message distribution center will speed up the use of the easier technology. "The potential of SMS as a data service hasnt been tapped," said Chris Knotts, director of enterprise marketing at TCS. SMS is comparable to packet data and sends short bursts of information, while e-mail on wireless phones typically uses a circuit-switched connection.

Today, content providers that send text information to wireless users often deliver their services via public gateways. "So the carrier is part of the value chain because theyre performing a delivery function, but they arent in the revenue stream," Knotts said. While content providers charge end users for their services, they dont share that revenue with the operator if they access the end user through the public gateway.

TCS acts as a clearinghouse and splits revenue with the wireless operator that signs up to use its service. Content providers are interested in hiring TCS because the companys gateway offers them valuable information about end users. They can find out if a users phone is on or off, or get customer location information.

Canbox USA, a unified messaging provider, has signed up with TCS. "We want to be able to do global Web-based unified messaging with global SMS," said Bryan Seastead, strategic development manager at Canbox USA. Canbox USA uses SMS to alert users when they have a new e-mail or voice-mail message.