Monday, 10 March 2008

Web-sent SMSs now face restrictions

Picked this up from my Google Alerts : Web-sent SMSs now face restrictions

Of particular interest was the following paragraph:

The committee has also decided that the service providers must also ensure that the SMSs received by their network from a website would not have India’s country code +91 as the sender party’s address. The code +91 is strictly reserved for messages sent from a mobile phone.

This is definitely one to watch. Esendex don't do a lot of business in India, but markets have a habit of following each other.

As part of a standard service, we allow our customers to change the sender of messages to be their mobile number or a virtual mobile number we provide. Both providing a legitimate reply path for the recipient. If we were providing Indian national mobile numbers, we would be falling foul of this regulation.

To me this looks disturbingly like their following the US approach of requiring all SMS traffic be sent via shortcodes for A2P (Application to Person) traffic. While this is billed as protecting users against SPAM it also serves to stifle the market for innovative services to smaller organisations.

The issue with shortcodes is that they are short and therefore in scarce supply. Long numbers on the other hand a re long and in plentiful supply. The other benefit of long numbers is that the costs of sending to them are the same as any other mobile number. No need for the dreaded 'standard network charges apply' clause on every bit of communication, no need to educate the end=users to prfix their messages with a keyword in order to communicate.

This makes them both accessible and affordable for SMEs who wish to extend the communication mix and bridge between the Internet and telecoms. They can be used for normal communication appointment reminders, server alerts, customer service applications, etc and not just marketing and promotion of large company's services.

As we extend our interconnects around the world, I hear time and time again that 'this operator doesn't like A2P traffic' and 'that operator has restrictions on this kind of traffic'. It's this kind of ill-considered, blanket approach that brings my blood to boiling point. It's so short-sighted, so protectionist without real thought, and so stifling of innovation.

There are 2 weapons against SPAM that are well within the reach of all network operators.

  1. Interconnect fee - the operators can setup AA19 agreements with all networks they wish to receive traffic from specifying commercial terms for doing so. If SPAM costs too much, it stops.
  2. SPAM filtering - most SMS hubbing companies I speak to these days have robust SPAM filtering to prevent these messages from passing through their hubs and onto the network. Unfortunately, the networks don't seem to be interested.

IMHO The only real growth in SMS volumes are going to be from the A2P arena. Everyone has phones pretty much and I would bet they're going to reach the limit of what they want to text to each other about. Get them texting with applications and the explosive growth days can reign again.

Virtual mobile number based services represent the Long Tail of innovation that can touch everyone. A company sending just 500 messages a month to key stakeholders is not going to revolutionlise traffic but multiply that by 10,000, 100,000 or a million companies all sending their own messages to their own stakeholders and that starts to get significant. Add onto that the replies from the recipients and surely that should be of interest to the networks.

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