Alan Pascoe, senior manager

Alan Pascoe, senior manager of product marketing, Tekelec


Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, captured the microblog’s immense mobile growth potential in mid October, saying: “There are over one billion people with internet access on the planet but there are more than four billion people with mobile phones, and Twitter can work on all of them because even the simplest of these devices feature SMS.”

Problems with SMS

As the popularity of Twitter has grown, so has that of SMS as a tool for sending and receiving updates. However, problems are emerging. Operators now manage unpredictable and unprecedented traffic spikes on outdated network equipment. This has not only created technical issues but also extra costs for operators, users and Twitter, threatening the viability of a free use model across multiple channels.

There is a second cost related issue, too. Twitter initially paid operators for the submitted SMS updates, but this is now economically unfeasible with Twitter’s rapid growth. Twitter has struck deals with some operators but most have not been willing to provide SMS tweets free of charge.


The good news is the solution to both issues lies with operators’ core mobile networks. Carriers can implement architectural changes that will open new revenue avenues through SMS tweets and add flexibility to handle increased message volumes.


Potential revenue

Twitter CEO, Evan Williams, told The Telegraph in October that: “The best business models come from where people can create the most value. I think Twitter can create the most value on mobile phones, because it is more immediate.”

One area where operators can multiply the value of Twitter SMS updates is with in-message SMS advertising incorporated into Twitter SMS messages. This value added service would maximise operators’ profit and strengthen their subscriber relationships.

This idea is to insert customised sponsored content into the unused portion of text messages, delivering advertisements directly to the handset. There is sufficient space to do this; according to the user guide and analysis tool TwitterFriends, the typical tweet is 82.1 characters long. So even if a Twitter user name takes up the maximum 20 characters, that leaves at least 58 characters remaining.


In-message adverts

In-message SMS advertising also provides granular measurability for advertisers and operators. By sending advertisements directly to mobile subscribers, operators can measure responses and even structure advertising agreements based on success metrics, giving confidence to advertisers about the effectiveness of this advertising channel.

An evolved SMS architecture will better handle rapidly rising message volume and unpredictable spikes in activity. Multimillion message spikes, which can occur during periods of breaking news, can overload the existing SMS infrastructure. For example, the Guardian Tech Twitter page has nearly 1.4 million followers, with hundreds of thousands potentially receiving SMS updates. With multiple posts per day, the cumulative effect could lead to network bottlenecks, crippled SMS services and damaged customer relationships. This concern will likely expand globally, as The Telegraph recently reported that Twitter “is in talks with mobile phone carriers all over the world to…allow people to post and receive tweets via text message, without the need for web access.”


Time to move on

The reason for the overload concerns stems from SMS architecture origins developed in the early 1990s. Then, service providers delivered a limited number of person to person (P2P) messages, and the short message service centre (SMSC) could adequately handle all of the traffic. This legacy approach is still employed by most operators, and supports an antiquated ‘store-andforward’ delivery model ill-suited for today’s messaging needs and operational costs.

A better approach is a modular, next generation SMS network which breaks down the SMSC into separate functionalities. This enables operators to add capacity only where needed, offering flexibility and reducing costs to handle message volume spikes. Messages are sent via first delivery attempt (FDA), which succeeds 85% to 95% of the time, requiring far less storage, and overhead and maintenance than the SMSC approach.

Twitter’s CEO said the mobile platform is a key focus area due to its reach and revenue potential, stating: “Mobile is bigger than people think”. Twitter, advertisers and operators are all looking to take advantage of the pervasiveness, immediacy and relevance of SMS messages and the personal connections derived from social networking. Now is the time for operators to use advertising and technical improvements to improve customer relationships and add new revenue streams.

Found at the heart of most global networks, Tekelec’s high performance network solutions enable the secure and instant delivery of calls and text messages for more than one billion mobile and fixedline subscribers.

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