SMS completes Eventful 20 Years

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By Himanshu Guru: The technology of sending a text message through mobile phone, the SMS (Short Message Service), has completed its eventful 20 years yesterday. After having done everything from closing multi-national deals to crushing love and relationships, the service is used more frequently than voice calling now. Today more than two lakh SMSes are sent every second.

Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old British engineer, sent the first ever text message, “Merry Chistmas.” via Vodafone’s UK network to an Orbitel 901 mobile phone on 3 December 1992. Of course this was sent from a Personal computer then. However, the first commercially sold SMS service was offered to consumers, as a person-to-person text messaging service by Radiolinja (now part of Elisa) in Finland in 1993. Nowadays, about four billion people around the globe use SMS service, to communicate with each other.

SMS, as used on modern handsets originated from radio telegraphy and later defined as part of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) series as a means of sending messages of up to 160 characters. Since then, support for the service has expanded to include other mobile technologies. Most SMS messages are mobile-to-mobile text messages, although the standard supports other types of messaging too.

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First, in 1984 a Finnish civil servant named Matti Makkonen introduced the concept of SMS at a telecommunication conference, but the first actual SMS was sent years after this event. The pace of sending SMS was initially very slow. During 1995, sending of SMS was on average only 0.4 messages per GSM customer per month. Then, networks in the UK only allowed customers to send messages to other users on the same network but the limiting restriction was lifted in 1999 and by the end of 2000, the average number of messages reached 35 per user per month. After another six years, it was seen that by Christmas Day 2006, over 205 million messages were sent in the UK alone.

In India, the trend of sending SMS also grew a lot like the other countries. Thus, the service was also started to be misused by some companies, who did not bother for the customers’ worry, but were solely targeted on their profit. They started to send huge numbers of unsolicited messages to individual customers and so in an effort to limit these telemarketers, new regulations were introduced in September 2011 to restrict the number.

The limit was fixed at an average of 100 per subscriber per day. Yet, Due to representations received from some of the service providers and consumers, TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) raised this limit to 200 SMS messages per sim per day in case of prepaid services and up to 6,000 SMS messages per SIM per month in case of postpaid services with effect from 1 November 2011.

While SMS usage had been growing with a great pace, the widespread increase of Internet-enabled Smartphone usage has led to a decline in SMS usage these days as more users prefer other messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Blackberry Messenger or Google Talk too.

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