SMS stays on message

SMS stays on message

Jay Seaton
Jay Seaton

Jay Seaton, chief marketing officer at Airwide Solutions, on SMS as a foundation for growth and rich services.

British web users are now spending 65 % more time online than three years ago. However, while social networks and blogs are reaping the benefits of the increased time, internet based instant messaging (IM) is not enjoying such a generous ride. 

Dropping IM use

The amount of time Britons spend on IM decreased from 14% in 2007, to just 5% currently, according to a 2010 UK Online Measurement (UKOM) research report. Clearly, there are a number of different factors at play, but the fact that internet IM services are often not compatible with each other nor with SMS, is widely acknowledged to have played a major role.

For example, if a user has a set of friends using differing IM services, one on AOL Messenger and one who prefers Skype, then communicating with each other can be complicated and difficult. SMS is the most logical messaging channel for these friends to send a quick message to each other, as they are all likely to have an SMS capable phone and are highly familiar with texting.


Messaging the next level

Looking to the future, what will the next stage of this evolution involve? One thing that is certain is that the future will continue to include SMS. With over a trillion text messages sent annually, SMS is still hugely popular with consumers and is generating great returns for operators.

SMS infrastructure and technology is proven and familiar to operators, and the integration of experienced vendors and massive popularity encourages low risk development of rich applications and services. That experience and success, combined with global adoption, provides a solid and stable foundation for SMS to grow.

I expect SMS to continue to be one of the foundations for services, but I also envisage changes to how consumers use messaging services with the advent of Rich Communication Suite (RCS), an industry effort focused on the use of the architectural framework, IMS, for mobile communications.


Bring on RCS

RCS will cover a variety of aspects of IP-based communications, one of which is called enhanced messaging. This will support a conversational presence-enabled text and multimedia messaging experience and represents an evolution towards mobile messaging of the future.

RCS will extend to the PC via PC IM clients and even social networking applications. RCS will lift SMS and MMS to a higher level, using chat, see-what-I-see and presence to enrich the user experience with the lessons learned from IM and social networking, while also enabling anybody to communicate with anybody, the greatest strength of SMS.

For instance, an RCS Facebook App already exists which will allow Facebook users to communicate via RCS to other RCS users, whether those users are on their phone, RCS PC Client, or RCS social networking application.

The powerful thing about RCS is that, just like SMS, everyone who has a handset will be part of the RCS network, offering huge potential reach. Operators have shown that they are open to developing and fostering interworking with third parties, including social networks. However, operators now need to deepen and broaden this level of interaction, as doing this can only benefit everyone in the value chain; operators, social networks and IM services alike.

Done well, RCS will help operators leverage the benefits of SMS. SMS offers immediacy, engagement and instant interactivity, yet all the while remaining very private.

SMS is still the largest revenue generator for operators, and with ABI Research predicting global revenues to total $177 billion by 2013, SMS looks set to continue its long life of prosperity. The advent of RCS will improve the experience of SMS yet further showing that not only is there lots of life still left in the old dog, but that the old dog is also up for learning new tricks.

As a provider of next generation mobile messaging and wireless internet infrastructure, applications and solutions, Airwide Solutions has one focus: To enable your revenue to keep pace with the burgeoning consumer driven mobile messaging and wireless internet market.

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