Here’s The Inside Scoop on SMS Messaging

December 21, 2016

9:15 am

SMS has taken the world by storm. According to SimpleTexting, over 15 million text messages are sent around the world every minute. Even with so many people using this technology, the truth is that very few people really know how the technology behind it really works.

For starters, what does the acronym even mean? It stands for “Short Message Service” which, by itself, provides a short explanation of what it is. The “short” refers to the actual number of characters (letters, number and symbols) that can be sent at a time.

In our standard Latin alphabet, SMS is able to send a maximum of 160 characters at a time. For other languages, such as Chinese, the maximum is only 70 characters. If sending a long text message, the message will have to be broken up into several SMS packets.

The Detailed Explanation

In order to actually understand how SMS works, it is necessary to understand how cellphones work. They are constantly sending and receiving information from and to cellular towers, which is sent and received over a pathway called “control channel.” This tells the phone's location to the cell tower, and whether it needs to switch to a closer tower.

When we receive an SMS message, it first flows through the Short Message Service Center (SMSC). After this, it is passed on to the tower, which sends this as a packet of data through the control center to your phone. In truth, this packet contains more than just the message being sent. It has more information, such as the sender's number, the sending time and date, the message's length, etc.

Unlike instant messaging or email, these packets are actually not sent immediately, but they are held in a store-and-forward service. This means that when a text message packet is sent through the SMSC, the packet is stored there until such a time when the recipient's cellular device is turned on and within range of a cellular tower.

SMS Has Various Uses

SMS messages are not only for person-to-person texting. They can also be sent to a large number of people at once, a type of messaging known as “broadcasting”. It is often used by companies to notify employees of important news, or by safety authorities in order to notify citizens of impending natural events, or other important news.

As SMS becomes more ingrained in society, many companies are finding new uses for this technology. For instance, many news stations are now allowing people to take polls and comment on current events via SMS. Many social networks are also taking advantage of SMS to contact users, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and others.

As SMS technology becomes more popular, there will be many new uses coming forth in the future. They will integrate this technology into almost any and all phases of our lifestyles. With a basic understanding of this ever-emerging technology under your belt, you are in a position to take advantage of this technology in your business and personal life, perhaps even coming up with your own unique use of this technology.


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25 y/o, born and living in Portugal. Majored in Biology, but tech and computers were always a passion. Wrote for sites like Windows.Appstorm and MakeTechEasier.