Mobile operators may be able to extract added revenues from their existing infrastructure with the lanch of a messaging service that uses SMS and voicemail functionality to let users send and receive messages more quickly and conveniently.
The service, named Rapid Messaging Service by its developer, US company HeyAnita, lets a user record a voice message instead of entering it as an SMS through a phone keyboard. That voice message is then stored, and the intended recipient is sent a text alert letting them know they have an RMS message waiting from the sender. When the recipient listens to the message he can then reply in kind, or take any other appropriate action.
One aspect of the service that may attract users over simply leaving a voicemail, is that it is less intrusive. There are times when the sender doesn’t want to disturb the receiver, or wants to avoid a lengthy call himself, and this is a non-intrusive but quick way of getting a message through. It also allows the user to get some emotion into the message, and is quicker than email or text.
The service needs no software or change to the UI on the handset. Users access the service using a speed dial number or other keystroke. Operators use their existing SMS infrastructure to deliver the SMS, and circuit switched voice network to carry the voice traffic. Operators need to install, or use a hosted, gateway server to handle the voicemails and integrate with the SMS infrastructure.
The maximum length of message is configurable, but trials have found a minute to be more than enough. the service can also operate as a one-to-many function is a user sets up a group in his RMS contacts list.
HeyAnita’s vp marketing, Mark Willingham, over in Europe convincing operators of the potency of the service, says that it is important to realise it not simply a text-voice service. “We are not trying to replace texting but to provide an enhancement. There are some times when it is not just efficient or possible to type a text, for example when you are driving,” he said.”
Willingham said that in trials, 21% of users who received a message replied in kind straight away. The process can build up a thread, he said, resulting in increased voice and SMS traffic for the operator. People who receive a message don’t need to have the RMS service activated on their phone to reply, although they do to start a new message. A short menu of options when a message is received offers the operator a good chance to upsell the service to someone who has received an RMS for the first time. Willingham said that in trials the service had grown organically at a rate pf 3-5% per month.
HeyAnita has US operators using the technology, and has found that they tend to look on the service as a premium SMS service, either bundled into a package or marketed on a per-use basis. Some operators have offered the service available to everyone on a short-code, others as an opt-in service at a subscription level
Within operators take-up has tended to come from within the data, or SMS, team, rather than the voice side. But the service can act as a “handshake” between the two sides, Willingham said, as well as providing a similar service between messaging solutions. RMS could be used in alliance with MMS systems to ensure that at least the voice part of the message arrives, if there is a problem with the visual element, Willingham claimed.
In terms of providing the service on a roaming basis, Willingham said that if operators can provide a localised point of access, the service could also encourage users to use their service to call internationally.
The contact list for RMS can either be managed by the user in an online database or software can be downloaded to a client device to interface with the contact list on the client. Either way this may be a step that operators would look to RMS to develop, so that users can access the service direct from their own SIM.
Willingham said the company was taking steps to iron out the kink in this ease of use.
“The current version supports the ‘say a name’ [voice dialling] feature by utilising an online RMS Address Book.Â However, we do have client software for RMS which will enable the user to manage their RMS contact list from their mobile. In addition, RMS has been architected to interface and utilise existing operator clients, thus leveraging the user’s SIM-based address book.Â This functionality will be available in a later version of the product.
“We have chosen this product roadmap because it allows the operators to deploy immediately without requiring extensive relationships with partners (such as hardware manufacturers) in order to deploy.Â The RMS product and its roadmap focus 100% on simplicity and utility which means our goal is to never have users go through any laborious steps to manage and use the service.”
HeyAnita is currently talking to UK based operators, but is launching the service on a Europe-wide basis.