Neil Papworth, the man who sent the very first text message over 20 years ago, couldn’t have imagined that short messaging service (SMS) texts would become the global behemoth they are today. Around six billion messages are sent each day, highlighting just how important SMS is in everyday life.
The short, sharp nature of text messaging became one of its key selling points, as well as its compatibility with a wide variety of phones and networks. However, one of its biggest advantages is its instantaneous nature; the ability to send a ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ or ‘I love you’ in a matter of seconds to the message’s intended recipient anywhere in the world.
How does text messaging work?
In order to identify how important the instant nature of it is, we must first identify just how SMS is so quick.
Mobile phone signals are constantly bouncing to and from masts, sending and receiving information even when the phone isn’t being used. Depending on the phone’s location, it will search for the nearest mast to connect. If it cannot connect, the phone doesn’t receive a signal.
When a text is sent from one phone to another, it uses a connection called the ‘control channel’, which is also used to inform phones of incoming calls and signal strength. Think of the control channel as a path – it guides the message to a nearby mast and then to an SMS centre. The centre receives the message, sends it to a tower located near the recipient and then to its destination.
However, it is not just the message that’s being transmitted. The phone number of the sender, a header, protocol identifier, data coding scheme and the length of the message all form the elements of a full SMS transaction. Sending that much information in an instant remains an incredible feat to this day.
Why is this so useful for business and consumers?
The instantaneous nature of SMS makes it useful for B2B and B2C marketing. For example, betting firms can text their customers an hour before a big sporting event with some of the best prices they have to offer. In addition, television channels can use SMS as a channel for viewers to enter competitions, send feedback or place a request – all in real-time.
In addition, businesses may want to advertise a 24-hour fire sale on stock and services. What is one of the quickest ways to reach consumers? SMS. The instant nature of the service, coupled with the number of mobile phones used globally, makes SMS an ideal form of direct contact.
SMS also doesn’t overload networks as much as phone calls because they use separate channels. That’s why SMS is proven to be a durable form of communication when traffic channels, used for phone calls and larger data transfers, become overloaded. Furthermore, unlike with phone calls, text messages can be sent to devices that aren’t switched on. When the intended device comes to life, the message can be delivered, making an instant impact on the reader.
It’s easy to see why text messaging remains among the world’s most widely used forms of digital communication. The sheer speed and directness of the service makes it ideal for businesses looking to develop a relationship with new customers and engage with existing ones.