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Short message service

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Short message service (SMS) is a service available on most digital mobile phones that permits the sending of short messages (also known as text messages) between mobile phones. SMS was originally designed as part of the GSM digital mobile phone standard, but is now available on a wide range of networks, including forthcoming 3G[?] networks.

The message payload is 140 bytes: either 160 7-bit characters, 140 8-bit characters, or 70 2-byte characters in languages such as Chinese, Korean or Japanese when encoded using 2 byte UTF-16 character encoding (see Unicode). This does not include routing data and other metadata, which is additional to the payload size.

SMS is very popular in Europe, Asia and Australia, but is relatively less used in the United States.

It is particularly popular amongst young urbanites. In the favoured markets, it is comparatively cheap (for example, in Australia a message typically costs 10-15 US cents to send, whilst a voice call costs anywhere between US$0.25 and US$1.15 per minute) and it is possible to send and receive messages in noisy environments (for instance, bars) that would defeat a voice conversation.

Because of the tiny user interface of mobile phones, SMS users commonly make extensive use of abbreviations, particularly the use of numbers for words, and the omission of vowels, as in the phrase "txt msg". Predictive text software which attempt to guess words (AOL's T9) or letters (Eatoni's LetterWise) reduce the labor of multi-tap input and may make abbreviations less necessary.

Several telecommunication carriers[?] have recently started offering so called premium rate short messages which through higher pricing and revenue sharing[?] allows companies to be paid for their services by sending a short message. This is also becoming increasingly popular, but problems arise when the premium pricing is not advertised.

SMS's have caused subtle but interesting changes in society since they became popular. Newsworthy events (in chronological order include):

  • In January 2001, Joseph Estrada[?] was forced to resign from the post of president of the Philippines. The popular campaign against him was widely reported to have been co-ordinated with SMS 'chain letters'.

  • In July 2001, Malaysia's Government decreed that an Islamic divorce (which consists of saying "I divorce you" three times in succession) was not valid if sent by SMS.

See also: SMPP, Short Message Service Centres

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