The Death of SMS?


Short Messaging Service or SMS as it is popularly referred to has been around for over 25 years. For any piece of technology in this fast-paced information age we currently live in, this is a very very long time to stay relevant. But thinking practically, where would we be without it? When you are late for a meeting you send a quick SMS, when there is an emergency and you can’t talk on the phone you send a quick SMS to relay important information. The actual conceptualization of SMS began in 1984 by the Franco-German GSM Co-Operation by Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert. The two wrote a paper calling for “the provision of a message transmission service of alphanumeric messages to mobile users with acknowledgement capabilities.” This very important sentence birthed Value Added Services in Telecommunications as we understand it today.

In 1992, Neil Papworth stole the Europeans’ thunder and sent the world’s very first SMS - a “Merry Christmas” message to Richard Jervis. The rest is history. Since then there have been numerous SMS milestones such as 250 SMS’s sent worldwide in 2002, the number of texts sent in a month exceeded the number of calls made in a month for the first time ever in 2007, and in 2008 President Barack Obama used the SMS platform to announce to supporters that Vice President Joe Biden would be his running mate. So today in 2016, with the monumental rise of data-driven communication is it fair to say that SMS is all but buried? Far from it. The rise of data-driven communication still relies heavily on SMS for verification. When we download applications such as WhatsApp we still need to provide a number that app can send a verification code to, thus enabling us to use the application in the first place. The same applies to social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Above and beyond this there is the ‘mobile money boom’ in emerging markets that depends entirely on the SMS system to function and we all know that mobile money, mobile banking is here to stay. According to a GSMA report, there are 150 mobile money services that serve more than 81.1 million customers in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. There is a school of thought that likes to believe that because the SMS platform is not necessarily developing that it is dead when in actual fact it has become such a core part of our everyday lives that it is inconceivable to imagine we could live without it. It goes without saying that the SMS is here to stay.

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