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Old 03-03-2006, 02:22 PM   #1
Bob Russell
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Why are SMS short text messages so darned short?

I have a Verizon phone with SMS messaging, just like millions of other people. Mine happens to be a Treo 650, but hey, it's a phone just like all the others when it comes to text messaging. (Well, except for the fancy alarms and cool keyboard and great screen, of course!)

But when I have something to say that's longer than just "Meet me at Starbucks at 4pm", I run out of space. We seem to all just accept that, don't we?

My question is why we are under that rediculous limit with current technology, and where does that limit originally come from? Come on. You can't tell me that it's expensive or bandwidth consuming for cell carriers to expand the text messaging limits from around 160 chars or so, to something like 1,000 chars. We're talking simple text messages, not multimedia. One picture message probably takes way more than that much bandwidth. And what a huge difference in usability if we can type reasonably sized messages without having to make rediculous abbreviations and cutting it short after a single thought.

Is there some sunk investment in a technology that is hard to update? Is it a standard that's hard to reinvent? Or are the cell carriers just trying to keep us from having a nice easy way to stay in touch without adopting expensive email solutions. I mean, come one, they're making a mint even on existing SMS messaging fees... you'd think they would want to expand the service, not leave it relatively crippled.

I'd love to hear from someone that understands why we are living with this rediculous limit. Obviously, there's an international SMS text message containment law I don't know about, that evolved out of some global phone text messaging treaty intended to stop dangerous "text message pollution" in the environment!
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Old 03-03-2006, 04:36 PM   #2
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My curiousity got the best of me, so I did look into this a bit. What better place to start than Wikipedia ? Here's what they have to say:

Quote:
Transmission of the short messages between SMSC and phone is via SS7 within the standard GSM MAP framework. Messages are sent with the additional MAP operation forward_short_message, whose payload length is limited by the constraints of the signalling protocol to precisely 140 bytes. In practice, this translates to either 160 7-bit characters, 140 8-bit characters, or 70 2-byte characters in languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Slavonic languages (e.g. Russian) when encoded using 2-byte UTF-16 character encoding (see Unicode). This does not include routing data and other metadata, which is additional to the payload size.

Larger content (known as long SMS or concatenated SMS) can be sent segmented over multiple messages, in which case each message will start with a user data header (UDH) containing segmentation information. Since UDH is inside the payload, the number of characters per segment is lower: 153 for 7 bit encoding, 134 for 8 bit encoding and 67 for 16 bit encoding. The receiving phone is then responsible for reassembling the message and presenting it to the user as one long message. While the standard theoretically permits up to 255 segments, 3 to 4 segment messages are the practical maximum, and long messages are billed as equivalent to multiple SMS messages.
After a short look (just enough to make me dizzy), I've concluded that this means there is a limitation of the signaling protocol that accounts for 160 7-bit characters. Carriers could extend the message length under SMS, but they would have to concatenate the pieces, which apparently it's not worthwhile to do, and may need other supporting changes such as in the handsets themselves.

At this site, they say that you can get some more characters by using compression also:

Quote:
Ways of sending multiple short messages are available. SMS concatenation (stringing several short messages together) and SMS compression (getting more than 160 characters of information within a single short message) have been defined and incorporated in the GSM SMS standards.
But it still seems like quite a shame to me!
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Old 03-03-2006, 07:12 PM   #3
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Er..here in the Uk with my Nokia 9500 or Nokia 7710 I can send extended SMS which is sent as two/three individual SMSs.
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Old 03-06-2006, 07:59 AM   #4
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I think that you can send long "SMSes" (as we call them) everywhere in Europe. That was not possible many years ago, but as long as your phone supports it (and I think even my old black-and-white Nokia did!) the carriers do, too. All the phone does is split long messages into various pieces, but they all get to the addressee in the correct order.
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Old 03-06-2006, 12:42 PM   #5
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OK, when do we start asking for "SMS2"??
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Old 03-06-2006, 01:07 PM   #6
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I'd just like to have the European SMS in the US!
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Old 03-07-2006, 03:32 AM   #7
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thats wirred...

.. that u cant have long SMS in the US, in Sweden and EU we have could send that for many years.
2 SMS long any way, I think thats the limit, if its in the phone or in the net that I dont know.

But its 160 characters, is max as u say in one sms.
I think its no big work for the op. to change so u can send 2 SMS in one.
But maby the want to save time slots.
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Old 07-25-2007, 03:50 PM   #8
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In the same way as Zip compression can shrink files, can't they also be used to shrink text messages, so that you can get an extra 10% or so?
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Old 07-26-2007, 04:51 AM   #9
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Hi.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I had the idea that originally sms were designed for short informative purposes (for example, when you had a message in your voicebox (?) ). My first gsm phone didn't send sms messages, it only received them. And this was quite usual, only high range models could send them.

I think that the success of sms as a mean of communicating between users was completely unexpected by mobile providers.

Once they were so successful, providers prefered to expand their capabilities at a higher cost (for example, allowing extended sms by concatenation of simple ones, thus paying more money!)

Greetings,

L.
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Old 07-26-2007, 08:00 AM   #10
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As Europe has demonstrated that it is possible, I would think the US would want to offer that to people who desired it, if it means mo' money for them. So I'm sure the problem has more to do with hardware at the provider end that they do not want to invest in, or bandwidth issues they do not want to address (also a provider hardware issue).

Most importantly, when providers believe the big money is with streaming media anyway, maybe they've just passed on long messages as not being profitable enough for them to allocate resources to.

On the other hand, there have been some demonstrated differences between the American and European markets' use of cellphones, so maybe the US isn't looking that closely at what Europe is doing, or they don't believe there are enough people in the US who want longer messages to make it worth their while. After all, if no one's asking for it...
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Old 07-26-2007, 09:28 AM   #11
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If you get rid of all the technical jargon related to SMS, I think what happens is the max transmission is the size of the subject line in an e-mail message. I noticed this when sending SMS back to an e-mail account once - I think the message actually shows up in the subject line, not the body.
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Old 07-26-2007, 03:01 PM   #12
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By George, I think you're right... so an SMS is a message without a message!

Personally, I wouldn't have a big prob leaving SMS alone, if it was easier to access my home and office e-mail on my cellphone (in other words, without having to use Verizon's mobile web, which sucks eggs, and has never allowed me to access my e-mail accounts). If cellphones included a simple text-based e-mail client, we'd have the choice of using that or SMS... which would be fine with me.

If you did, though, you'd need to be able to set some serious limitations, mostly to avoid spam on your cellphone, and lengthy messages that providers would try to charge you per-letter.

EDIT: I realize there are downloadable e-mail clients for cellphones... I meant as a standard accessory on all phones.

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 07-26-2007 at 03:13 PM.
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Old 07-27-2007, 09:21 AM   #13
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It's my understanding CDMA networks do not support the "long SMS" method of concatenation, which is most of the US cell carriers, while of course most of the rest of the world is on GSM networks. US GSM carriers like Cingular/AT&T DO support long SMS, but only within their network (Cingular->Cingular), if the message goes outside their network (Cingular->TMobile) then it loses the special instructions that allow for the concatenation.
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