SMS can still be the tool that delivers enhanced revenues to mobile operators. Here several industry players outline how. Over the page one technology provider highlights the gains operators can make from an overhaul of their messaging infrastructure.

    Mass market mobile email, mobile instant messaging, MMS services. All have attracted their fair share of comment in this magazine and in other areas. Yet there is a source of increased revenue that operators can tap into with very little investment at the network side, and no integration of client software on the handset range.

    According to a recent IDC study, the mobile messaging market in Western Europe, which includes SMS, MMS, and MIM, will be worth more than $15.4 billion in 2010.

    “Mobile messaging will continue to play a key role in the industry for many companies, not just mobile operators” said Paolo Pescatore, research manager for IDC’s European Wireless and Mobile Communications service.

    IDC found that, “Clearly, SMS generates the greatest amount of end-user spending, and this will continue throughout the forecast period.”

    Yet increased SMS revenue need not be at the expense of MMS or other messaging revenues. Whereas IM may look to some like a killer of SMS revenues, and mobile email may cut into MMS income, the “new” SMS services promise revenue uplift by providing genuinley additional services.

    Dror Bin, Vice President and General Manager, SMS Division, Comverse, says that “SMS is now acquiring innovative capabilities for personalisation, self expression, and enriching communications”. His point is that as other personalisation services have proved popular, such as ringtones, wallpapers and avatars, so SMS lends itself to increasing personalisation.
    Among the services he sees as potentially beneficial is the ability to customise an SMS with personal signatures, or to automatically duplicate or forward text messages to other people or to their email, and even utilise auto-reply, immediately informing senders of a user’s temporary inability to respond, just

    like the “out of office” functionality on the PC.

    “Increased convenience is a major factor behind some new personalised services. SMS Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), for example, will let users exchange text messages using short numbers, such as four-digit extensions, instead of full phone numbers and the exchanged messages will feature the member’s nickname or signature, or even a company brand. Special VPN tariff reductions will further encourage intra-group messaging.

    “In addition, SMS technology serves as an ideal method for operators and major brands to interact with consumers on a targeted basis, informing segments of new services that are tailored to their everyday needs and interests,” Bin says.

    Another potential earner that Bin expects to see is that of “sponsored” messages, whereby users, and the youth market is seen as the most likely, accepts that a message carries a brand message in return for cheap or free texts.

    “By dynamically enriching SMS offerings with new personalised services with greater functionality, operators can create a competitive advantage, increase customer loyalty and satisfaction, and generate greater SMS revenues,” Bin says.

    A further possible boost for messaging comes from the enterprise market.

    Peter Tanner is founder of an enterprise messaging company called The Messaging Centre. Put simply, the Messaging Centre offers businesses the opportunity to send messages from a desktop PC direct to employees’ phones, or that of their customers.

    Tanner says the application, despite not being unique, deserves wider use.

    “I simply can’t understand why companies haven’t used more of this,” he says. “There’s no licence fee, no contracts. A company can simply buy credits and off they go.”

    Tanner’s company buys messages in bulk from a variety of aggregators, and monitors their delivery and performance on the carrying networks. He says uses include CRM, staff communications.

    One user is Knight Frank Estate Agency. Koojse Bakker, PA, says,  “Our negotiators are often abroad on business, when overseas TMC is a simple and efficient method of keeping in touch during important transactions. We have also found the service to be helpful on a day to day basis, reaching staff and clients in a manner which is convenient for them to receive and respond to.”

    A company doing something similar, though with a slightly different model, is TynTec, which provides staff communications for businesses such as British Airways, which uses its engine to contact crew around the world in a secure and monitorable way. TynTec actually has direct hooks into a handful of mobile operators’ SS7 networks, and through their roaming contracts can get visibility to the SMS infrastructre of their customers’ carriers, allowing them to provide service level agreements to customers.

    Another simple example of how SMS can more than earn its way.