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The case for mobile text messaging

Now that Canada's wireless industry has decided to take a lead role in harmonizing the network issue, the barriers to a surge in text-messaging use have been removed.

January 1, 2002  

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A recent announcement from Canada’s major wireless players will bring a new dimension to wireless communication.

To date, there has been a lack of mobile messaging suppleness available to the enterprise. Clearly e-mail has been the dominant tool for business users, with advantages far outweighing any other messaging applications currently in the market. But there are many drawbacks to wireless e-mail, including poor usability and the length of time it takes to create one. This is about to change.

With the recent announcement from Canada’s four major wireless carriers that they have at last agreed to unlock their networks to inter-carrier text messaging, a new dimension to wireless communication will enter the corporate process. Short Messaging Services (SMS) will work in parallel with e-mail to provide enterprise users with a flexible suite of mobile messaging instruments.


Short messaging service is a two-way text messaging service that allows mobile users to send and receive short text messages over their wireless handsets. E-mail can be extremely quixotic to use over a mobile device because of its slow store-and-forward nature, as opposed to the swift device-to-device communication of SMS. Creating a message is also more difficult and time-consuming. To create an e-mail message, the user must log in to a browser session, enter a password, type the message and then send it.

With mobile-originated SMS, the user selects “messages” (from the menu) on a wireless device, creates a message and presses “send.” Since a browser session is not required, the process is cheaper and less cumbersome. Receiving messages on SMS versus e-mail is also easier. To retrieve e-mail, a browser session must be initiated through a log-in process, again using airtime minutes to read the message. SMS messages are immediately sent to the mobile device, notifying the user.


To date, SMS uptake in North America has been hampered by the lack of carrier interoperability across different networks. If a subscriber using CDMA technology (Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility) created an SMS message and sent it to a TDMA or GSM carrier subscriber (Rogers AT&T, Microcell), the message would not be received. Consequently, two-way SMS use has been extremely limited. This is in stark contrast to Europe, where SMS has become extremely popular as a result of common network technology platform (GSM) and interoperability agreements.

To overcome the interoperability limitation, the four major wireless operators will use technology from CMG Wireless Data Solutions. CMG will bridge all of the mobile network technologies, including CDMA, GSM, iDEN and TDMA.

The impact of network interoperability on SMS usage is best seen in the European experience. The GSM Association reported that six months after inter-carrier messaging was introduced in the UK, SMS traffic doubled.


From a strategic standpoint, wireless messaging offers a number of benefits to corporate activities. For the sender, it is fast and simple to use; for the receiver, it is unobtrusive and operates in real time. This kind of messaging instrument will act as a convenient addition to mobile communication, not replacing e-mail but acting in parallel for timelier and less formal interaction.

The potential of SMS has long been blocked by a lack of network operability. Now that Canada’s wireless industry has decided to take a lead role in harmonizing the network issue, the barriers to a surge in text-messaging use have been removed. The issue now is not whether SMS will be a success, but when. CS

Jeremy R. Depow (who shares this column with the Yankee Group’s Iain Grant) is a Senior Analyst with the Yankee Group in Canada, a technology-consulting firm in Brockville, ON. In this position, Mr. Depow is responsible for primary research and analysis of new telecom technologies and market developments. He also holds responsibility for the authoring of several Yankee Group Research Reports.

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