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Handhelds Hardware

SMS vs. E-mail? 203

Chase asks: "I have a Motorola I85s (Java phones rock!). The issue I've run into is that from what I've been able to find out, most phones overseas (I'm in the US) support SMS to send text messages between mobile devices. Also alot of two-way devices are now popping up in the US. Nextel (my service provider) only lets me use SMS to other Nextel customers. Their two messaging service is e-mail based. So I end up using a web site to send SMS messages to my friends overseas but we'd really like to send directly each others phones. Is this just a problem with Nextel or do all mobile phone companies in the US have this issue? Are most of the current crop of two-way devices coming out in the US email based, SMS, or something else?"

"All of you anti-Microsoft people would probably like to know that if you have Nextels national plan and a I85s you get the ability to send and recieve from a Hotmail or MSN account for free. I'm paying $5 a month for the regular email support. I read something about MSN only supporting non-standard protocols for email, do we also have to worry about Microsoft messing with moble messaging? (and yes, I have a Passport option on my phone)"

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SMS vs. E-mail?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, the frequencies most commonly used for GSM (900/1800MHz) outside the US were assigned/registered by the ITU; they weren't just "invented" by the developers of the GSM standard. The ITU is an international organization representing 189 countries, and part of it's mission is worldwide frequency planning. USA has been a member of the ITU since 1908, so you can't really blame anyone but the USA for assigning these frequencies to the military instead of following international standards/recommendations. Besides, every major manufacturer has multi-band telephones operating on the 1900MHz-band used in the US, so US operators can implement GSM and european/worldwide-style roaming and services any time they want. Mattias
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Hey, I'm the lead developer on a project called MobileIM( )that is attempting to integrate exactly these two dissimilar means of sending messages - we use the open source Jabber Server( )internally for interoperability with ICQ, AIM, Yahoo, MSN, etc, and we liked it so much that we're going to be using the protocol for our mobile and desktop clients too, which will be forthcoming shortly.

    Right now we're doing a lot of research into establishing a virtual SMSC via the SMPP protocol so we can have a direct SMS-to-SMTP adaptor, so if you're really interested in this topic, check out our news site occasionally in the next few months, we might have something interesting someday. =)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    if($SenseOfHumour == 0 && $foreigners > 0):
    $troll = 1;
    $status = "attack on sense of nationalism";
    printf($country."trash" . $USNukeArsenal $randmSocalisticInsult);
    while ($foreigners == 0) {
    printf("Buy Coke!");
    printf("Buy HotDogs!");
    printf("Buy Donuts!");
    printf("Watch TV!");
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Software Labs [] has a product called PageAbility which has been bridging this gap for several years. Though it's not the best solution, by far, it does work fairly well if you have a MS Windows system which can be left on all day.

    Hardware is always a problem, due to the fact that once it's been distributed, there's virtually no way to revamp the entire system. Of course, many phones can be programmed remotely, but major investments must be made in order to get the back end to deal as well.

    Therefore, we're left to stop-gap solutions. Thanks, big multi-national mega-conglomerate corporations!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I guess... but if the US govt really wanted the free market run free they would make the spectrum less 'regulated', the amount of stuff allocated for military apps is ridiculous, it seems they just hang onto the frequencies for the sake of it, this is the reason the 3G auctions will be so long coming, there's one almighty battle going on with the Pentagon regarding the spectrum. Everyone else got their auctions over with over 18 months ago.

    If we get off our military peddle stall for a second and take a look around, how come other countries can manage a modern fighting force without requiring huge soaves of spectrum being allocated to military use? The Brits have a decent Navy and Army, yet their spectrum isn't ruled by the forces. If our forces are more technologically advanced at least in theory we should only require slim spectrum allocations, certainly no more than other countries.

    I don't think you can really blame Europe for US domestic problems. In fact, if the EU started complaining US frequency allocations within the USA, you think they would be given a warm welcome? I can just imagine how /. would take to this. I don't think we can really point fingers at the Europeans here.
  • To be specific PCS is a term that refers to the 1900MHz wireless band, no matter the protocol used on that band. Sprint uses CDMA on the PCS band while AT&T amoung others use TDMA on the PCS band.

  • All three of the mobile service providers in Australia (Telstra, Optus & Vodafone) use GSM900. There are some 1800 cells in CBD areas in major cities though.

    One.Tel, which built its network using GSM1800 only, went out of business few weeks ago and was shut down completely. Telstra ended up taking most of the home and mobile customers.


  • I don't know about you, but my shiny Ericsson R520m seems better than most of the Motorola crap phones I have seen. All US-built phones that I have seen includes two useless things: extendable antenna and some sort of flip-down hatch. Why? They are totally useless anyway.
  • They (the mobile phone providers) were told they had to here in Australia :)
  • This has got to be a troll 8-) I am often in the US and see the housebricks my friends over there call mobile phones. The US is not a viable market for mobile phone producers and therefore gets ignored to a large extent. It is far more profitable for the phone companies to focus on the whole world, where one model suits all, rather than one country that is daft enough to go it alone. Therefore phones are brought out in the global market first then later a US version.
  • For U.S. based standards, there is a similar concept. Again, the interface can be TCP/IP or IPX or X.25 or SS7.
    This is less of an issue than it seems. Just as with SMSCs there are only a handful of widely supported interconnect protocols and each SMSC will support at least one that everyone else supports. The most common is, of course, a straight SS7 link between the operators (peering, if you will).
  • #include <stdtelecomgrumble.h>

    But Vodafone's GPRS prices are through the roof (NZ$30/mb), and no-one seems to think that prepay customers are really interested in data services (the only viable option for prepay data is using telecom, and it's *not* advertised).

  • Next to that it's also nice to know that you can send from one country to another one without one single interaction. I send regulary from Belgium to the Netherlands and from the Netherlands (while on a belgium subscription) to the Netherlands and to Belgium :)

    Almost all of the cellular phone operators have deals with (almost all) international operators (roaming). You can call almost at local charges if you are calling in the same (roaming) charges.

    Some even provide a server that you can roam in the United States without changing your phone (if your phone is having US std's of'course, else you'll need to get one with a SIM card :))

    Freaker / TuC
  • SMS would have been a factor of ten more popular in the US did we not have really cheap landline communication. AOL has a bajillion users because it doesn't cost ten cents a minute to make a local telephone call. You can tie up the locals loops here ad infinitum for free. Thus chatting and e-mail on AOL is extremely popular and often used. When you go across the pond it is a very different story. Landlines aren't nearly as cheap and abundant as they are here thus people don't spend a trillion hours on AOL tying up local loops. The EU however in the name of a better economy suggested everyone's wireless networks ought to talk to one another. Europe started off with a better wireless arrangement than in the US (in response to a poorer landline arrangement) and now SMS is more popular than e-mail with the kids. I'm not really sure SMS will really ever take off in the US like it has elsewhere because most people have already got enough ways to keep in touch if not too many ways.
    A slashdotter talking to an AOLer about SMS:
    [AOLer]:I wish I could send e-mail to my friends with my cell phone!
    [slashdotter]:You can, it's called SMS.
    [AOLer]:So like you mean I could use AOL on my phone?
    [slashdotter]:It's different from e-mail.
    [AOLer]:But I want to send an e-mail to my friends not some weird thing!
    [slashdotter]:You'd be sending them something like an e-mail but it's different.
    [AOLer]:Shut up geek!
    [slashdotter]:*mumbling and jotting something down* You're going on my list!
    I just don't see SMS catching on in the laziest country on the planet. What American is going to spend a bunch of time writing email with only 12 keys for input? It'd be cool more companies offered it though so you at least had the option. You can fit alot of information into 160 characters, there are plenty of uses for SMS on PCS networks hint:dedicated SMS pagers for professionals and regular consumers.
  • don't you worry : the government-sponsored GSM standard (that is technically of French origin, the original meaning being Groupe Systemes Mobiles, which was a division of France Telecom's research labs) may be one of the best example ever of what harmonious inter-government regulations working on par with industry consortiums can lead to, but we (in Europe) totally fucked up the sequel to that success story.

    Entangled in the free-market ideology that is ruling the mind of every european bureaucrat nowadays, decision has been made not to make any decisions about the next generation, and to let competition, not only between companies, but also between governments, yield to the best for the consummer.

    Hence the UMTS fiasco, a technical failure and financial disaster that puts at stake the very existence of previously prosperous European telcos, will never give birth to any viable product or service, and has dramaticaly delayed the exploitation of current technology for intersting internet-on-the-road services (expecially through GPRS packet tehcnology).

    This and the US still struggling to have a mobile voice network that is not a joke, and the whole world can watch the Japanese comfortably take a 4-to-5 years headstart in mobile internet usage and tehcnologies. Japan : the country where telecommunications are the most regulated in the world, the last country where the main telco has a de facto monopoly.

  • Yeah, what the Hell's up with Austin? I was just down there last week and thought it was supposed to be a big tech town. Well, my hotel had ethernet connections, but my phone bill's going to be obnoxious this month because of all the roaming Verizon calls I was making. Oh well, the bars/music were still great, anyway...


  • ...Sometimes it hurts to be first... that's why Russia never made it to the moon.

    What does that say about the US mobile infrastructure then?

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "I drank what?"

  • Of course, recommeneded way to call customer support (*666 from cell phone) does not work in europe.

    You call *666 to get customer service?
    And you expect it to work??? :o)
  • Hey, if you gave me a choice between dinky text messages and a cable modem for 30$ a month, I'll take the cable modem. The US is far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of high speed internet.

    Minor point, but at my apartment in Stockholm (Sweden) I can get cable internet via UPC for 229 SEK/Month (approximately 23 USD) and ADSL via Telia for 330 SEK/Month (approximately 33 USD).

    Oh - and we get "dinky" text messaging.

    Also you can now get GPRS (always on, internet connected 2.5G mobile).

    What was your point again?
  • Just because US companies don't use GSM doesn't mean that US cell phone technology is five years behind GSM-using countries.

    I've got a UK Orange mobile for when I travel in Europe, a SprintPCS phone for personal use, and a Nextel for work. Based on sound quality alone, US phone networks beat GSM hands down (at least Orange's network).

    How about features? Can your precious GSM phone networks do Voicecommand [] or DirectConnect []? I doubt it.

    I think it's better to compare inter-country GSM roaming to interstate roaming in the US. My Sprint & Nextel phone work in almost every major market in the US (and Sprint even in Canada) - that's all that matters to most people in this country.
  • Mobile services in US are quite retarded anyway - different standards, even GSM standard is different from European; different networks incompatible, no decent mobile phones (Nokia 62xx series that is)...

    Well, in some things US lags way behind, and unfortunately this has shown no signs of getting better. Makes me happy to live in Europe :)
  • Just buy a tri-band phone instead of renting one next time you're overseas.

    Last time I've been there I picked up an Ericsson thingy for about $400, it works on 900 & 1800 MHz as well as on the 1900 MHz standard in the US.

    I inserted my European SIM card, and was able to use the phone in New York, Detroit & Vegas - pretty much everywhere I've been on that trip.

    The only downside was people who didn't know I was overseas, calling me at 7 fucking am in the morning. Oh yeah, and then there was the phone bill, about $2 per minute with those stupid roaming charges.
  • Hi,
    the good thing about GSM and PDA is this:
    1) phonegook from my phone is (within 10sec) in the Palm Pilot memory
    2) all my SMS are in palm within few sec.
    3) I can send (yes, short, but it works) SMS, e-mail and so on using my Palm very quickly
    4) i can synchro my calendar with the phone (ericsson R320s)
    5) i can use WAP with the palm

    and so on. So IMHO PDA+GMS phone really rocks! And it is VERY cheap in Czech republic (WAP - 0.77 Kc per minute! It is 50 minutes of WAP connection for $1 !!)
  • Yup, I was in Norway last year from Ireland and both the pre-paid and account SIM cards I brought with my phone worked perfectly, SMS and all. It really is sweet (and seeing as I was in Amsterdamn for around an hour at the stopover it's nice to see GSM "working" - switching the network display as it goes through countries).

    I figure until GSM becomes more widespread in the US they won't get a decent and quick SMS. I have read however that it is becoming more widespread in the North East (New York, Mass., etc., ).

    I think the US get better pricing deals though - around $50 a month for 1500mins of calls I heard from some services.

  • R520m is cool - bluetooth and all...(and the bluetooth stuff actually works (!)) but the 8850 is the most beautiful phone ever made..
  • by Anonymous Coward
    SMS doesn't take up any 'airtime' as such, since it doesn't even use the voice channel and therefore it's basically impossible to bill per minute (it only takes a slit second to send anyway).

    SMS uses the control channel, this layer is normally used to alert your phone to an incoming call, exchange public keys and hand you over to different cell sites etc, your GSM phone is always locked onto this channel when it's switched on.

    SMS was originally created so operators could send new settings to phones, it's still used for this purpose and you can also send new ringtones and logo's via SMS.

    I can remember when SMS was a little known feature in GSM phones, operators never even charged for texting until about 1996 when they started to hit critical mass and take off in a big way. You might be mistaken in thinking this was all planned, however SMS was an obscure technical feature that took the operators by surprise, it's one of those unexpected applications never planned for.

    I hear the ICQ developers took their inspiration from SMS, which is fitting since you can do SMS to ICQ in both directions now.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ahh... but this is the thing with mobiles in Europe, the whole local/national scheme goes out the window, it doesn't matter if you call a landline next to you or some phone box 500 miles away in Scotland, it's the same charge (quite a reasonable one too).

    Since mobiles by their very nature roaming across huge distances you can't penalise the caller or the recipient on distances or location. In fact, apart from specialist call-back cards I've never seen recipients paying for incoming calls. (what an odd scheme of things).

    It's a similar thing with international calls too since cell phones have their own location independent area codes (for instance all mobiles begin with 07xxx in the UK), it's the same across Europe.

    Say I call my brother's cell phone in France from the UK, it's the same charge if I call him in Switzerland or Germany. I don't have to dial different country codes for each country (how am I meant to know what country he's in without speaking to him, or even know he's abroad? catch 22) so you just dial the same number you do in the UK, and if the cell is roaming in France it gets patched over to their GSM network.

    In fact, many of the web to SMS gateways take advantage of this unified network, the messages goes to an Eastern European nation then is injected onto the GSM network and finds its way to the UK or France etc. Companies buy huge SMS quotas from an operator in Prague for example.

    As for the call allowances, we get those too, certain tariffs [] include 10-20 txt messages a day and 50 minutes of free talk time per day for instance, and free access to voice mail etc. Then there's the "pay as you go" phones that incur no monthly fees, but you pay more for the calls.
  • As an American, I just can't get my head around this idea that each outgoing call on a landline phone has a separate charge, and as other posts said, this is what makes such a huge difference between the two systems.

    Having said that, I used to call my friend in the Netherlands on her cellphone, but then my long distance company changed the rate. If I were calling a landline Dutch phone I would pay 11cents per minute, but a Dutch cellphone cost 55cents per minute. It was a great transatlantic deal until they raises rates for cellphones. I stopped calling her because that was dumb.

    While she didn't pay anything to receive calls, outgoing calls were outrageously priced imho. Sprint PCS offers the following right now--3000 minutes for $50. Outgoing/incoming/long distance. At best, my landline phone could have 4.5cents interstate long distance--but if all 3000 minutes were used for outgoing long distance--well that's about two cents a minute. You can't beat the outgoing rate, and in fact, I use my cell for long distance service exclusively, opting not to have it on my landline phone (which would be irrelevant if it were not for my fax machine.)

    SMS is cute and all...but I don't see what the purpose is given this system. That (and not to start a flame war) I am one of those who subscribes to the idea that CDMA and TDMA is superior technology to GSM. I used to have a GSM phone (Aerial) and I have been much happier with CDMA.
  • I am living in Belgium and franky, I can't find any better instant-message thing than SMS.

    It's fast, a maximum of 160chars can be typed in, with nokia phone's you can send pictures together with the message, if the receiver's phone is on you see a "delivered" message (when option is on), if unreacheable the receiver will receive the message if his phone has been turned on inside 24hrs.

    • It's even easy you can send addresscards, phonenr's, details and more over SMS ...
    • If I need to tell somebody I'll be later for an appointment I just send a SMS and done :)
    • If the servers in the company are down, I receive a SMS message, same with UPS failures.
    • These days there are even infoservices sending you SMS about latest news, speeding cars, stocks, ...
    • New mail received? Very easy to see the subject coming via SMS :)

    Some webbased services (alike MTN (SMS) [] and others) offer (10) SMS's for per day, from the phone to another phone we pay 5Bef (for about 10 cents), in holland the double.

    We use short internet terms like LOL, :), BRB and stuff ... Some people even chat over SMS ...

    Freaker / TuC
  • That depends on your coverage area - some Cingular phones use TDMA, some use GSM, and in some areas customers are having TDMA phones exchanged for GSM.

  • A big problem is that the US regulator, the FCC, decided to simply license spectrum for cellular and PCS services, not to mandate a technology. While this was admirably laissez faire, it meant that operators and device/network vendors compete with different technologies: AMPS (analogue), D-AMPS/TDMA, CDMA and GSM. Nowhere else in the world has four actively used technologies, and almost nowhere else is still using analogue.

    The European regulators took the view that a single standard would promote competition better - everyone uses GSM, so consumers can choose from a bigger pool of GSM phones, GSM operators and so on, than if there were multiple fragmented standards.

    The European market is not really more regulated than the US, it's just that they took the opportunity to standardise the technology not just the spectrum. The result is that GSM now has just over 500 million users world-wide, about 70% of the market, and is gaining share in the US and most other places.
  • I really hope we can avoid bulk SMS without very carefully controlled opt-in... It's bad enough when I go to Italy and get 'welcome to operator Foo' spam on roaming to a new operator.

    Your comments seem quite specific to Australia - when in Europe I've had little trouble sending SMSs to people back home, although some European operators don't seem to support this, so I have had to roam to a new one occasionally.

    Pre-paid SMS internationally didn't work for some time but someone else on this thread said this was now working.

    One of the most interesting stories I heard was that when carriers opened up to inter-carrier SMS, *every carrier's* SMS volume went up 20%. Shouldn't be a surprise really, that's why (eventually) the world went to Internet email, after a long period in the Eighties and early Nineties when proprietary email islands dominated... This means that enlightened operators should just open up inter-carrier SMS right now, as they will end up gaining in outbound SMS volumes.

    SMS in Europe has achieved a critical mass, so that you know everyone with a mobile phone has SMS, and almost everyone has a mobile of course. Email in the US achieved a similar critical mass much earlier, at least a few years ago, which is why the various wireless email systems have held off true interoperable SMS.
  • You must be readig too many magazines. Maybe the US were quicker with initial broadband roll-out, but they've slacked off majorly lately. Forget DSL, the Bells are doing everything they can to drag their feet. Regarding cable, do a quick poll of user opinions of the major providers and you'll find they're all equally sucky. Cable has been available in some markets for what--over three years now?--and I only just was able to get it last week. I'm happy, yes, but let's not gush over the US' supposed leadership in the field. From talking to family and friends in Germany, broadband is becoming quite available in Europe as well. I think the US is losing its reason to gloat.
  • Comparing the communications charges I'm paying now compared to what I was, I can assure you the US system is very much NOT a better deal. Given the economies of scale that should be possible here it's very surprising how much more people seem to be happy to pay for a substandard service.

    People here are NOT happy with substandard service or high prices. Just ask any Chicagoan how they feel about Ameritech (hint: I switched entirely to AT&T wireless, with its additional cost, simply to not have to ever deal with Ameritech again. I made the switch 3 years ago and haven't regretted it for a second ... the extra money is money well spent, at least paying for a service rather than subsidizing a disservice. But I digress...).

    The problem is that our market really isn't as free as you think. The last mile of wire is almost always owned by the local telco monopoly, with a complex web of regulations dictating how and for how much access to that wire will be "sold" to competitors (assuming a particular area has competitors for local service ... many do not.) Building a free market with privately owned wire and cabling, without having the owners of the wire and cabling use unfair tactics to destroy their competition, is hideously complex. Perhaps not even really possible. It is akin to trying to have a free market with privately owned toll roads everywhere you drive, and having those roads owned by one or another of the major car manufactuerers or trucking companies and then hoping to achieve "fair" competition through regulations.

    Far, far easier to nationalize the roads and create a level playing field for all of the players, be they car manufacturers, trucking companies, private buslines (e.g. Greyhound), or taxi services. Ironic, isn't it, that only the most extreme of free market zealots call for privatization of roads, while everyone accepts the privatization of other basic infrastructures that lead to the kinds of telecommunications horrors we have in the US.

    It is no coincidence that so many DSL services are going under, and that none of them are the local telcos providing the last mile of wire. Sometime's the FCC manages the balancing act moderately well and a semblance of a free market can exist, even if it is very overpriced. Other times, such as with DSL, they don't get it right and providors die off like flies.

    Fortunately, with our highway system, this sort of misguided notion that government has no role to play in owning the infrastructure (it's socialism ... oh no!) is absent and our physical economy works rather well. Unfortunately this basic concept is missing from the realm of electricity and communications, so instead of a relatively simple system to build and manage we end up with a web of unmaintainable and incomprehensible regulations to try and simulate the same results. This is a lesson that will probably take at least another generation or two for the United States to learn, possible now only because communism in its authoritarian form is dead and the need for mindless propaganda against the very concept of a public commons is diminished. Unfortunately, a people fed on a steady diet of such propaganda will only be able to reevalute some of the more absurd implications of such propaganda over time ... certainly not overnight, and probably not anytime soon.
  • The first time I saw one of those Java Phones, I understood why France Telecom sunk a bunch of dough into Jabber. Imagine being able to send messages to AIM, yahoo, msn and all the others via yer cell phone. Imagine further, that your friends or company have a private jabber server, and you connect via SSL

    Yep, encrypted chat and IM on a server you control, connecting via your cellphone, wouldn't that be lovely (voice chat too?). Especially if your private jabber server was hosted by havenco.

  • Even if you have a GSM phone, there is no guarantee that your SMS message will reach the destination. I have a connection with Fido, here in Canada, and I tried sending an SMS (or text-message as they call it in Europe) to a friend in the UK and after contacting them via e-mail found they never received. It turns out that my friend couldn't receive the SMS, because she was with Orange, and Fido ( aka Microcell) only has agreements with Vodaphone and BTcellnet in the UK.

    Useless tidbit: Text messaging is all the rage in Europe and a lot of phones come with a preset selection of messages you can send, in addition to those you can write yourself.

    BTW a good site for discussing cellphones and the various providers, for those of you in North America is [].

  • they are no longer tied to their landline phone when they are expecting a call.

    But what about if you are not expecting a call? The mobile owner is letting other people have the benefit of calling him when he is not near a landline.

    Say if the mobile owner is out shopping and someone desperately wants to talk to him. The mobile owner gets no benefit here. However, the person calling gets the benefit, as without the mobile the caller would have to wait until the mobile owner gets near a landline. Even then the caller would need to know which landline (work, home, partner's etc).

    Take another example. My girlfriend gets lost when driving somewhere but has left her map on the kitchen table. She wants to phone me for directions as she is sure that I know how to get there, but I have just gone out to post a letter. So she phones me on my mobile and speaks to me. Who gets the benefit there? I didn't want to go anywhere. I get no benefit from her getting the directions. I didn't need the call. I wasn't waiting for the call. Mobile usage isn't just about being able to make calls. A lot of calls to mobiles are about people needing you, not you needing people.

    Also in Europe all providers (that I have seen, having lived in both the UK and Sweden) provide Caller ID for no charge. Digital doesn't come into it as hardly anyone has analogue anymore.
  • It is a simple extension of the philosophy that those who see the benifit should pay for it. If you choose to "go mobile," you pay for that choice.

    Alternatively, shouldn't the caller pay to call the person on the mobile, as they are seeing the benefit of being able to call them when they are away from a landline?
  • The company that I work for Telecommunication Systems Inc. (TCS) has an SMPP (short message packet protocol) to e-mail gateway product that we sell to carriers and businesses to cure this problem. Inter carrier messaging is cool stuff.

  • Vodafone NZ (relative newcomer) runs a GSM based network and their SMS service works with almost every other service on earth!

    Unless you live at my house, in which case only Telecom's network gets any coverage. Bit of a no-brainer at that point.

    Dave :)
  • Hey, if you gave me a choice between dinky text messages and a cable modem for 30$ a month, I'll take the cable modem. The US is far ahead of the rest of the world in terms of high speed internet. In Australia you get dialup or nothing. You would have to pay hundreds a month even for iDSL.
  • I also use nextel for my cell phone, and I find the quickest way to message people is Aol Instant Messenger. I have instructions at my site [] on setting up any wap phone to use AIM. Apparently, AOL doesn't want you to know how to do it, forcing you to use their partners cell phone service.
  • Unfiltered SMS centers RULE. Nothing beats a free SMS. (Well, a free lunch would, but there's no such thing.)

    A Google search on "free sms center numbers" yields an amazing result: a page titled "Free SMS Center numbers". Haven't tried the numbers, but at least one should work.
  • The article is not entirely accurate. In some European countries you do pay per-minute for voice calls (as opposed to the claim in the article), and per-message for SMS. I pay ~13.5 cents per minute for voice calls and ~11 cents for one SMS message sent. That much is true that the reciever (call or message) doesn't pay anything. Heck, some advertising campaigns even promise to pay the reciever!
  • I think the US has problems in its wireless industry because our ground telephone system is so solid.

    That would explain why two of the major suppliers of landline telephone hardware are located in Europe... Indeed the nearest you'd get to the US would be Nortel in Canada.

    For a long time, Europe's telephone network lagged behind in system stability and in price

    Didn't AT&T manage to crash their entire network a few years back, hardly that stable.
    Let alone that the pricing of calls in the US is hardly easy to work out from the number, or as a consquence of the NANP, even if the call is international or not.
  • I'm no telco historian, but my wild guess would be that the US developed and started refining the cell phone technology and Europe waited and let us spend all kinds of money perfecting things before they implemented.

    Actually the technology was developed in Europe. The situation in the US probably isn't helped by the NIH attitude which the US telephone industry.

    And let's face it, even if that's not true, it's gotta be easier for the *much* smaller countries of Europe to update the networks than the whole stinkin' US.

    That'll explain how Australia and South Africa have large GSM networks....
  • I think the reason for doing this interesting in-band signaling was the fact that with T1 all 24 channels were used for payload

    With complex way to derive a phantom signalling channel.

    whereas E1 uses one (or was it more?) of 32 channels exclusively for signalling.

    30 bearer channels, 1 siganlling channel, also 64k, the other 64k is used for framing.
  • Hey, if you gave me a choice between dinky text messages and a cable modem for 30$ a month, I'll take the cable modem.

    How do you fit the cable modem in your pocket???
  • Perhaps if Europeans who developed GSM had not chosen a frequency which was at the time, and will be for a good while longer, in use in the US by the US Military, and instead chosen a frequency with the input of the FCC, which all countries had free, we could enjoy GSM at the same frequency as they are in Europe.

    The frequency used dosn't matter. Anyway IIRC it was the Americans who exempted themselves. The rest of the planet dosn't have a problem using GSM, even on different frequencies...
  • The point is that mobile numbers have a special area prefix, and then they are nationwide. The caller pays extra, but knows this because of the prefix. The receiver doesn't pay unless they are out of the country.

    The problem is more that this wouldn't work because of the preexisting US charging structure. A charging structure which just didn't exist elsewhere.

    End result is that with the US-type system, private users like to keep their numbers quiet because of the cost issue whilst with the Europeanm type system, users often give out their mobile numbers in preference to their home numbers because of the ease of reachability.

    There are examples of mobile operatoes offering the US style charging (e.g. Orange in the UK). But they are unsual and uncommon.
  • USA has been a member of the ITU since 1908,

    Considering the number of ways in which US telecoms are incompatable with the rest of the planet; 56k vs 64k bearer channels; 1.5M vs 2M primary rate; use of 011 vs 00; US ISDN; etc it's kind of surprising that the US is even a member at all.
  • ...and the crazy thing is many other countries are going down the road of selling off all sorts of utilities in the name of a cheaper and more efficient service.

    Privatization has its benefits (private companies are usually a lot more efficient than a government department) but also has it's downsides (more concern for the owners than the consumers).

    Why do governments look at the USA and say they want to be just like them?

    (Oh - btw, I like being in the US. My only real bitch is the utility companies)
  • With mobile phones, you've hit exactly my point. $24.95 every three months and $0.65/min is significantly more expensive than $15.00 every three months and $0.25/min. Even if you take off the roaming thing (never understood the point of this anyhow) you are still paying $0.35/min and that's even if someone calls you.

    The telcos here just haven't noticed what happened in every other country in the world when they removed the charge for incoming calls on mobile phones - usage grew to about 75% of the population. I enjoyed the phone because it allowed people to keep in touch with me, and allowed me to keep in touch with my wife for relatively little expense.

    The companys here seem to be obsessed with "minutes" rather than getting the base rate down. I don't want "minutes" - I just want a phone.

    As for land lines, it's mainly the FCC charges I'm talking about. I'm used to not having lots of extra taxes on communication - rather paying about US$12/month for a full service line (caller id, call waiting, diversion etc.) Again, here you seem to be paying for "extra" services like call waiting that actually cost the telco nothing.

    As a point of note - you don't pay per minute calls in Australia either. You pay about $0.12 per local call. The local calling areas are significantly larger as well - usually encompassing the entire capital cities, rather than just a few exchanges. As an example, under the Australian system you'd expect any call between any two numbers in New York City to not be time charged.

    Comparing the communications charges I'm paying now compared to what I was, I can assure you the US system is very much NOT a better deal. Given the economies of scale that should be possible here it's very surprising how much more people seem to be happy to pay for a substandard service.

    The amusing thing about it all is that people in Australia are screaming at the telcos claiming they are being ripped off everywhere - often claiming that they are worse off than people in other countries (like the US). As soon as you actually look at the charges you realize just how wrong they really are.

    On the bright side - international calls are much cheaper here if you can find the right carrier. I'm quite amused that it's cheaper for me to call Australia (9c/min) than it is to call across town (10c/min)!!
  • Nextel, and most other providers that provide packetized data services as well as SMS services, use an IMG (Internet Message Gateway) to broker communications between the SMS servers and the Internet. (IMGs also provide a bunch of other services including two-way SMS messaging.) Sending an email to will result, as previously posted, in a message being delivered via SMS to your phone as opposed to straight email through the MSN Hotmail service. This message will appear in your SMS inbox and not your email inbox. Remember that this SMS, even though delivered via email (sort of) is subject to the character length limitations of any other SMS regardless of origination. When sending to somebody else, in Europe, for example, you may be sending to their packet data/wireless data service email address or to the email address associated with their SMS service. You may want to check with them as to which services they have and the message length limitations associated with each. The inability to send SMs between different service providers is the result of both different cellular technologies being used and the fact that providers really don't have links between their respective SMS servers. You can count on IMGs and email psuedonyms to bridge this gap for some time to come.
  • Having worked in the SMS field for some years, this is nothing new. This is one of the biggest gripes about short messaging.

    Most carriers around the world restrict where you can send SMS for one of two reasons.

    Cost - Carriers make more profit from local SMS, as it costs them nothing. Where international SMS is dependent on the price negotiated with the destination carrier. Since SMS pricing is generally flat rate, regardless of the destination, it's in the carrier best interest to only promote local SMS.

    SPAM - This is the biggest problem and why inter-carrier SMS is only supported by a handful of carriers.

    In the early days many carriers supported the inter-carrier SMS, but with the falling prices of bulk SMS in the European countries, SPAMers spoiled it for the masses. Even the great South African carrier, MTN(, had it's agreements revoked.

    Carriers are reluctant to open the floodgates to foreign SMS. If your carrier wants to allow you to send SMS to carrier X, then carrier X would expect that their customers be able to do the reverse. Carrier's hate not having complete control over their network and thus prefer not to support inter-carrier SMS where their jurisdiction over SPAMers is in doubt.

    Here in Australia, we've only had agreements in place for local SMS for about 9 months, allowing any Aussie GSM user SMS access to the 4 major networks. This is great, but the carriers only support the boring standard text messaging. Many of the powerful SMS features (Class 2 and 3 messaging) are blocked at the gateways.

    On top of this the carriers have agreed not sell any bulk SMS products with inter-carrier SMS facilities. This is good in the sense that it will prevent SPAMers, but on the down side, it puts bulk SMS out of reach to the small developer. (Where I fit in)

    In short, you have very little hope in convincing your carrier to allow inter-carrier SMS by yourself. Your best bet is to rally up other subscribers and put pressure on them that way. This is how it was achieved in Australia. (See your US eqivalent of for help).

  • I have a Siemens M20 GSM modem hooked up to my Linux box, which lets me do all sorts of nifty stuff, like run SMS mailing lists and other services, run programs on my machine in response to an SMS message, play-by-SMS games, recieve SMS alerts etc.

    at NZ$0.20 a message (sender pays), it can get expensive with heavy use, but is not cost-prohibitive with moderate use.

  • If you find land-line billing complex, you must have trouble grasping flat rate pricing (unless you're in California, Chicago, NYC, or one of the other areas without flat-rate calling) It's very simple.

    Yes, of course. If someone points out that the US is behind the rest of the world in some respect, it must be because he's an idiot who can't comprehend the very simple and superior US system.

    BTW, I live in Califoria and have flat-rate calling, genius.
  • If mobile calls are cheap enough that there is no reason to not answer incoming calls, how can it be too expensive to make outgoing calls?

    Yes, you pay more to call a mobile phone. They have special area codes, so you know what you'll pay.

    Of course it's the person who makes the calls who should be paying for it. That is how every other market works. Imagine if you would have to pay airline tickets when people came visiting you...
  • but it seems to me that the states are pretty retarded when it comes to SMS and digital mobile telephony...
    Here in Austria (Yes that's the little spot in Europe...) we use SMS for our daily needs... There are 7 million inhabitants in my little country and the number of SMS sent per day exceeds 8 millions, we basically use them for everything, like getting Slashdot news, as a beeper to wake up, for better marks at school (cheating via SMS is GREAT ;))
    So my 0.02 of opinion I want to share is that everybody should literally *BEAT* their cellphone providers to enable sending and receiving SMS to and from every network... It's really cool, SMS are like ICQ for your mobile ;)
  • It may sound hypocritical at first but, for the record, I've lived in the US for almost 4 years now and I stand my ground saying that most americans have a really distorted world view.

    That said.. Yes, landlines are horribly expensive in europe, but what do you really need them for aside faxes and internet? If landlines are charged per min and cell phones are charged per min at a comparable rate which one would you choose? I'd rather have the cellphone anyway so this just simplifies the decision..

    As for the pricing: once you call outside your local calling area in US all bets are off. Local calling areas don't cover full areacodes and prices depend on your provider. Most of the time in europe prices for calls within the areacode are same. Simplifies things a little. Also there is a different price for calls during business hours and calls outside business hours.. And per minute charges generally make longer calls more expensive than short ones.. Not too complicated.. definetly easier then trying to make any sense of US cell phone calling plans..

    In US if you get a cellphone plan you first decide your local calling area(small=cheap, large=expensive) and how many minutes(little=cheap, alot=expensive) you want to have per month. After this you find out that although you have 1000min/month you can only talk on an avrg. 10min/day between 9-7 or otherwise you'll be charged a lot extra(minutes when you are awake=expensive, minutes when you sleep=cheap, reflects on the quota). Rest of the minutes are usable in the middle of the night or during the weekend. You've got anytime minutes, night/weekend-minutes, daytime minutes, promotonial minutes, local minutes, long-distance minutes, etc.. Who the hell is going to keep track of all of them.. Why don't you just scrap the freaking quotas and charge per min based on areacodes..

    Sure you might alse get free nationwide long-distance(for extra money) but once you exit your local calling area you get a horrific roaming charge(to be fair.. europe's roaming charges are bad too when you hop countries). Receiving calls while outside your local calling area is also expensive. In Europe "local" calling area(for cellphones) is generally the country you live in and not the couple of surrounding counties around you. If you want something like the whole east coast as your local calling area prepare to give out triple digits/month..

    Since you might already have to pay extra for calling within your areacode(calls outside local calling area) why not impose the same thing for cell phones and making receiving calls free like almost all of rest of the world does. Receiving calls on a cellphone is most of the time for the convenience of people calling you so make them pay for it.

    Btw. My cellphone back home costs about 4-5$/month to have active so even though I've been to US for almost 4 years I still have my mobile abroad working. Whenever I go home I can just borrow a phone from someone, insert my sim-card and be off. Any calls I make are charged per min(10-15c) and receiving is free.. Most of time I use the latter..

  • Yeah.. Leave it to the americans to have a distorted world view... But honestly, I've never heard of any other place than US where you pay for airtime instead of only originating calls/min.

    All of europe to my knowledge pays normally per minute in the originating end and per message for sms(it takes like what, umm.. 0.5sec to send the sms?). I think that in Russia you have to pay for receiving calls too but most of the countries(unless you're roaming) offer free receiving.

    In my opinion US system is screwed up. You get a ton of minutes you can only use at certain times of day or certain days and have to pay for all of them even if you end up using none.. Paying for what you actually use and getting free receiving makes much more sense(unless you really use all of your monthly quota up every month).

  • Huh? Japan isn't a GSM country either, situation there is even worse than in the US -- but their own proprietary iMode phones are way cool...
  • We have GSM in the US. It's called PCS. PCS is GSM at 1920mHz, whereas GSM in Europe and elsewhere, runs at 800-900mHz, which is where TDMA is in the U.S.

    I worked for an RF consulting company that helped launch Sprint's PCS system. Part of the software I wrote interpreted low-level messaging (this is basically the protocol that the phone uses to speak to the base station). The protocol is identical to GSM. In fact, all my code was based on GSM documentation and standards, simply modified for frequency.

    Not that this is particularly important to the question at hand.

    CDMA provides better quality of service and a higher traffic load at the same bandwidth, as TDMA or GSM/PCS. While the protocols are completely different, it has little to do with SMS. SMS has little to do with the phone protocol, at least from my knowledge. It would seem to have more to do with the switch at the provider. Therefore, I can't see why protocol (i.e. TDMA, CDMA, GSM, PCS) would have anything to do with it.

    I would hazard a guess that the reason for the lack of adoption in the States has more to do with a lack of demand than anything else. I have SMS MT (mobile terminated) service, but I rarely use it, and if I had SMS MO (mobile originated), I doubt I'd use it much either.

    Everyone I know, in the U.S. (and I'm speaking of friends, family, etc), have e-mail (let me clarify that I realize not every U.S. citizen has e-mail, I'm just speaking of people I know personally), and because e-mail is so prevalent and available here, I think people have little use for SMS. I have e-mail at home, and I have it at work. What do I need SMS for??? Everyone I communicate with regularly has e-mail day and night.

    Even internationally, most of my friends in other countries, are more likely to have e-mail than a cell phone, let alone a cell phone with SMS. I think it's just a general difference between North America and the rest of the world.

  • Actually, Sprint switched to CDMA from PCS 1920, which was a GSM based system. They originally deployed in the Washington DC area, Seattle, Portland, Philadelphia, and a few other cities using a GSM based system called PCS 1920. After they deployed these systems they decided to switch to CDMA. At that point, they did a buildout of CDMA systems but maintained the PCS 1920 system for a while and eventually phased it out.

    This system was definitely GSM based, though. My company was intimately involved in the original buildout. We designed it. I and others, wrote the software that the engineers used to design the system. Now, if Sprint is still using the term PCS or someone else is using it, for some other type of system, that's fine. The originaly PCS system from Sprint, was a GSM based system at 1920 mHz.

    Now, I can't prove everything above, but here's a GSM PCS 1920 phone by Nortel [] but maybe there was never a PCS 1920 GSM based network for this phone. Maybe it was just something they made as a joke. You be the judge.

  • You're right. This happened to me once. I guess I need SMS and didn't realize it. It would have been perfect for that one time I needed it.

    That sounds facetious, of course, but it's true. I've had one situation where things were too noisy for me to use my cell phone. In that situation, I simply said "hold on one second," and walked outside to make the call.

    I'm not saying it doesn't have a use. I just don't think there's enough demand for it in the States. That's the only point I was trying to make.

  • And not to beat a dead horse, but here's an article from a source, which we all know is somewhat unreliable, but it's the best I could do. It's called Slashdot []. As you'll see, a number of the posters were talking about the Sprint PCS system which was GSM based.

  • Sometimes it hurts to be first...

    In North America, Most people who have cell phones also have email. As a result, it's generally been easier to get messages off of the web. That's been "good enough" for most customers, so there hasn't been much of a push to get SMS running in competition to the already(baarely) working setup.

    In Europe and (more so) developing countries, fewer people had email and SMS was built into the phones -- Guess which came first.

    It should also be noted that the popularity of SMS came as a big surprise to the cell companies. They originally marketed it as a cheap add-on to cell service, but then found that income from SMS started to rival voice. This is probably why it is so well developed out there. This leads to the marketing barrier -- Convincing the marketing types at the various companies to support something that's supposed to save the customers money (i.e. cut their profits) is not an easy sell. When GSM came out, there wasn't much of a voice market out there, so there wasn't a voice market to 'lose'. This made sms a no-loss propsition... an added feature to get people 'in' to the market. In North America, on the other hand, (analog) voice was already entrenched. In this domain, text messaging feels more like competition to the already entrenched voice market.

    So here in North America, the pricing scheme never really favored text messaging, and it's been much more of a hack, so it hasn't caught on.Having half a dozen incompatible protocols/providers as opposed to one or two doesn't help much, either.

  • I am using one of (very few) US GSM providers (Cyngular). While visiting France, I can send and receive SMS messages to my wifes phone in US.

    The problem with Cingular is their support. It sucks! They have only 800 number, which could not
    be called directly from outside US. They have support email address, but I never received responce to messages sent there. Finally I managed
    to call their 800 number via calling card, just to hear message that I am calling from number
    outside of their service zone, and they could not help me. Of course, recommeneded way to call customer support (*666 from cell phone) does not work in europe.

    Taking in account that their roaming charges
    outside US are $2.50/minute I just bought in France pre-paid GSM card and using while I am here.

    Also, to be able to use their service outside US you need to call them and ask to activate "international roaming".

    Do not forget that most of US GSM phones are using
    different frequency than one in use in Europe and will not work there. You need dual or tripple band phone.

  • i can only speak of suncom. their SMS only talks to other suncom phones but as far as cost goes they have an unlimited monthly plan for only 49.95 which I'm thinking is not a bad deal considering that when i had a 5 hour plan before i would routinely go over my limit and end up paying monstrously for extra minutes. I figure if i can get dsl i might as well have a cell with unlimited minutes for the same price. plus the g/f uses the same company and we short message all day long.
  • >Things will get more consistent as Cingular and >AT&T migrate to GSM, but until there are >business reasons to support SMS interconnect, >the networks in the US will be slow to move. The first reason is easy: "revenue". SMS messaging has proven to be one of the highest growth features of GSM services in Europe. Interconnect between carriers only further helped this. The second reason is harder (at least, for the United States): conformity to technical standards regarding interoperability. What if you couldn't call a west coast RBOC number from an east coast RBOC ? Yet, apparently you can't send an SMS from one network to another.
  • I use a RIM BlackBerry, which sends and recieves standard SMTP email. That means that any piece of software that does a 20 year old messaging standard automagically works. Which means I can send and receive messages to/from all my servers, monitoring software, etc etc. Without needing to use extra programs, SMTP to SMS gateways, or anything. Nice.
  • Alas, the developers of GSM chose almost the worst frequency they could have, and then chose to blame the US for the incompatibility. Hrmph.

    Perhaps if the American government and the major American telcos had actually consulted with and helped create the global standard way back in the late 80's rather than adopting the attitude that

    • nothing created in cooperation by a committee could possibly work well technically or be marketable, and
    • a home-grown solution over which they have total control must be better, and
    • allowing multiple standards to compete would be better because eventually the strongest system would win anyway, due to free-market forces
    then your wish might have come true and GSM might truly be the global standard.

    This is somewhat off-topic, but the comparison between the US mobile telephony market and the market in the rest of the world (and particularly Europe) is one of my favourite examples of why a free market is not always advantageous - the imposition of the GSM standard upon the fledgling European mobile phone companies has been a license for them to print money, at the same time as achieving massive customer satisfaction, whilst the freer, no-government-imposed-standard US market has floundered.

  • Is it true that you have to pay to receive mobile calls in the US? This seems very short-sighted. Don't the operators want to create more traffic?

    In Sweden there are several operators that give the receive a few cents per minute when they receive a mobile call!

    This is very popular, especially with teenagers. And it certainly helps generating more traffic (and profit) for the mobile operators.

  • If your phone is capable of sending and receiving email, just use that instead of SMS. With my AT&T phone, I can SMS other AT&T customers, but for everyone else I just email them from my phone. The phone (Nokia 8260) makes little distinction.

    The email address of my phone is where the x's are my phone number. Sprint (I believe) is similar - so instead of SMSing 214xxxxxxx just email the associated phone address (which, I think, makes AT&T SMS me your message).

  • I continue to be amazed of the difference between the US an Europe cellular market:

    I live in Czech Republic, which, as a post-communist country, is not exactly the most developed in Europe. Still - we have 70% population mobile phone penetration, WAP support everywhere, GPRS (2.5G) available for a year now.

    Speaking of SMS - I am able to send and recieve SMS throughout whole Europe, I am also able to send SMS-to-email (for cca. 2 cents) and email-to-SMS (for free) - again, throughout whole Europe.

  • FWIW, the same is true in Egypt -- if your mobile provider is Mobinil, you cannot send SMS messages to Click subscribers, and vice versa.


  • Mobile services in US are quite retarded anyway - different standards, even GSM standard is different from European; different networks incompatible, no decent mobile phones (Nokia 62xx series that is)...

    Perhaps if Europeans who developed GSM had not chosen a frequency which was at the time, and will be for a good while longer, in use in the US by the US Military, and instead chosen a frequency with the input of the FCC, which all countries had free, we could enjoy GSM at the same frequency as they are in Europe. Alas, the developers of GSM chose almost the worst frequency they could have, and then chose to blame the US for the incompatibility. Hrmph.


    Care about freedom?
  • SMS is so popular here in the UK because it lets people who don't sit in front of their computers 24 hours a day to communicate with each other cheaply and efficiently from anywhere in the country and to a certain extent abroad. Here are some scenarios to try to explain why the non-geek community love it so much:

    If you are sitting in a club and wondering where the friend you came out with has gone off to you send them a short text message "where r u?" to their phone. Because their phone not only beeps but also vibrates when they receive a message they look at their phone and respond with "busy flirting" you know not to bother trying to find them.

    You are sitting in a pub with a few friends and remember you were going to invite your best mate James along to join you. He wanted to know when you got to the pub as he lives close by. Do you:

    a) Leave your drink on the table with your friends and go to James' house to get him. Note that you could come back to find that your drink was drunk (some mates those are) or spiked (I only had the one officer). Note that you also loose valuable drinking time here.
    b) Phone James from your mobile and attempt to have a conversation with him even though you have been drinking for a while and you start on one of your hour long drunken rambles about how wonderful/depressing the world is.
    c) Send James a quick text message to get him down here quick.

    Most people in the UK with a phone (and that is quite a lot of people) would now choose C.

    You met some gorgeous looking girl/guy last night and want to know if they want to come out for lunch today. You haven't got the guts to actually phone them because you didn't really think they were that interested in you but you don't want to give up that easily. You send them a text message "Would you like to come out for a drink? - dunos" and wait for a reply. SMS is also used a lot for flirting and you can sit for ages sending messaged back and fourth.

    You want to ask a lot of your friends out to lunch. You could phone them all but this could mean between 5 and 10 minutes to each person, which could use a lot of your time. Instead you send a "group message" to all your friends from your phone. Everyone gets the message and they all come to lunch and you only spent a minute or two writing the message.

    SMS messaging can be seen as a rather "sad" way to communicate and is amazingly annoying when you are sitting on a train and everyone's mobiles are bleeping all the time. However it is also very useful and until you actually use it you do not realise how useful it really is. It is also very easy because if you have someone's phone number in your address book you can send them a message. You don't need to worry about what carrier they are with or how to convert their number into an email address or anything like that.
  • ...supposed leaders of the digital era...

    Hell, in Europe every country I know of have agreed that GSM should be standard a long time ago (now there's 3d and 4th generation networks developing, I know that).

    All users of GSM phones in Europe can send SMS messages to / from each other, regardless of operator and country. Most telco networks have deals in all other european countries, so if I (a Norwegian) decide to go to Sweden, or the Netherlands, roaming is no problem. When I got to the netherlands, I just selected KPN as the provider and it was all good, I could call everywhere I wanted.

    The only problems are with those who use pre-paid subscriptions, in Norway at least they can't use the phone abroad.

    The US is really lagging behind in cellphone network technology. But I also understand it's going to cost a lot of money to upgrade the network since you have quite a big country and a lot of different operators :)
  • This is something we've covered extensively on TheFeature. A good article that explains not only the problems outlined in the Wired article you linked to, but also offers up some insight into a solution can be found here on the site [].

  • I think the US has problems in its wireless industry because our ground telephone system is so solid. For a long time, Europe's telephone network lagged behind in system stability and in price, and therefore, there was an incentive for a thriving mobile industry to take root. In the US, there isn't nearly the same incentive, although when I hear about all the cool stuff you can do on a wireless phone in Europe and Japan, I turn a bright shade of green...
  • Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia have created Wireless Village [], an initiative to create standards for instant messaging interopability. I wouldn't keep my fingers crossed for this to come to fruition in current devices any time soon (before 2005) though.
  • Yeah.. Leave it to the americans to have a distorted world view... But honestly, I've never heard of any other place than US where you pay for airtime instead of only originating calls/min.

    Boy, talk about hypocritical.... (I'm assuming that you live in Europe) I agree that with regards to interoperability, the US cell phone system is totally screwed up. It's stupid that every vendor has to mount their own towers, and that my AT&T approved device doesn't work on Sprint or MCI. But I'm living here in Germany for a while, and every landline phone call I make costs me, even if I call my next door neighbor. Furthermore, you need a chart to know what rate you'll pay because it differs based on locality, number of minutes called, day of the week, and time of day. Honestly, how can you complain about per-minute charges for airtime in the United States and put up with per-minute charges for landline usage in Europe? Here's a few things that maybe some people aren't aware of:

    1. For landline usage, almost all customers in the United States have unlimited calling to a reasonably large local area. There are fixed monthly fees that cover this, but most people make enough calls during the month to more than compensate.
    2. Due to the highly competitive nature, long distance calls are significantly cheaper than many places in Europe.
    3. Most Wireless calling plans in the US today offer a certain number of minutes that can be used ANYTIME. Reasonable plans start at $25 per month. Most of these plans include nationwide roaming and no long distance fees.
    4. The major wireless carriers have partnered (at least for voice) to allow us to place calls using competitor networks. The plans that allow this are usually a tad more expensive, but not unreasonable. That allows the person who remains mostly in one area and doesn't need nationwide roaming to pay less.

    Having said all of this, I really wish the US would use the same technology and standards as Europe and Asia. It would make interoperability at home better, and it would potentially allow us to use our cell phones when traveling abroad without having to purchase very expensive models that can switch over.


  • Yup.

    U.S is entering the wireless world with a disadvantage. I always thought that paying for airtime was a ridicolous idea.

    The U.S. telco giants all aim at achieving world dominance and monopoly. Those very goals is the reason that they will achieve neither, and that they will be midgets standing in the way of innovation.

  • I find using an existing email provider on my cell phone is the easiest way to send "instant messenges". Yahoo has a cell phone portal that is quick, efficient and appears on most services. I recently started using it with my Sprint PCS phone and it works great as messages appear immediately -- plus, you're using an existing standard and won't have to worry if SMS doesn't become the "final" standard.
  • by DamnYankee ( 18417 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @10:51PM (#115335) Homepage

    ...a side effect of the sheer size of our country...

    Oh, horse puckey! There are something like 385 million Europeans in Western Europe alone, all sectioned off into fiercely competing bureaucracies. The fact that even Europe can manage a unified mobile voice platform complete with transparent roaming, global text messaging, and standard frequencies is a testament to the power of government sponsored infrastructure building. The US is so far behind because private industry will always build proprietary systems where it can.

    I am by no means a communist (or even socialist) but empirical evidence proves that private industry will not build open, interoperable standards and systems! It's just not in its interest to do so.

    I was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said, "I drank what?"

  • by mpe ( 36238 ) on Monday July 02, 2001 @02:18AM (#115336)
    The size of the country makes it much more difficult to implement a single digital-based standard than say, Germany, France, etc.

    Both Australia and South Africa are large and sparsely populated outside of cities yet they can manage it.
  • Indeed.

    In the last five years I've visited Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, Malaysia, Japan, and Silicon Valley, Callifornia. Guess the one place my mobile phone didn't just work?

    And when I say 'just work', I mean people dialling my ordinary number (in Scotland) got through to me, my SMS messages got through, I was able to call everyone...

    The United States is about seven years behind the rest of the world on phone networks. You were seven years behind us switching from analogue to digital, so you aren't catching up at any noticable rate.

  • by Gorimek ( 61128 ) on Monday July 02, 2001 @02:28PM (#115338) Homepage
    I just got annoyed at all Americans commenting who don't know anything about the subject except that the US mobile phone system must the best in the world, presumably because everything in the US is best in the world by definition. I picked your post pretty much at random from many.

    This guy actually lives in the US, and has researched the phone market. He also has extensive first hand experience of the market in an other country. But instead of considering that his comparision might be valid and that he might have a point, you just assume that he must be confused about the facts. As he pointed out in his response, even your examples of that it can be cheap here too, are in fact quite expensive in an international comparision.

    I felt better after posting, so something was achieved.

    Yeah, we have 3 tier system here in CA. It's a 12 miles radius, not 10. Having 4 different phone companies to deal does not seem simple to any non americans.
  • by inburito ( 89603 ) on Monday July 02, 2001 @04:56AM (#115339)
    Where I live local calls are free only in local calling area which is not the same as my area code(calls within the county are free). Fortunately my internet provider has a dialup in my local calling area... So I do have some appreciation for free local calls..

    And here we have the cultural differences popping up. For you cell phone is your convienience whereas for where i come from it is the convienience of people trying to reach you. Thus, they are willing to pay a little extra for it.. Most of the people I know in US have a cell phone so that they can use it for calling, not so that people can reach them and thus it ends up being turned off quite often.. vey irritating when you need to talk to someone.

    Like I said, if you really use up your minutes on a regular basis it is worth it but I still haven't found a plan comparable to europe. Some providers give you 1000 minutes/month and then you can use 200 of these during the business hours. It comes down to something like 10min/day between 9-5 and extra minutes are charged heavily. Not my kind of plan.

    Some plans do have free local calling but charge accordingly. Some have free local calling for an introductory period but after it runs out you're screwed. There are also plans that offer free calling within their network but then when you want to call someone outside the network you're paying big bucks.. Price of the plan also depends on your home calling area which is ridiculously small for the cheaper ones.. Get out of the county and you might be roaming. I'd much prefer a unified paying plan(use a minute, pay for a minute) but I suppose it comes down to personal preference and cultural differences.. US is also quite a bit larger than any european countries so comparisons are difficult..

  • by he-sk ( 103163 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @05:35PM (#115340)
    It's normal that you can only send SMS in your own network. You are only able to send SMS to other networks, if your network has a gateway service to forward the SMS transparently. Granted, this is pretty usual in Germany, which is why I can SMS all my friends, whether the have D1, D2, E1, E2, and what-not.

    However, my sister now has a cell phone provider from Moscow, and while my dad (a D2 customer) can send her an SMS, I (a E1 customer) cannot. Turns out that D2 gateways to my sister's provider and E1 does not. :(

  • by wierdo ( 201021 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @08:17PM (#115341)

    In Australia I was paying about US$5 per month for a mobile phone, not paying to receive calls and paying about US$0.25/min for outgoing calls. Given that I don't use the phone that much I was more than happy with that price. I could go anywhere in Australia with that phone and have coverage - all for that one price. I took that phone to Italy and STILL had coverage without even talking to a company in Italy.

    You can do that here, just buy a pre-paid phone, and occasional pre-paid cards. I believe you can have a phone on AT&T's network for as little as $24.95 every three months. I believe that's for the 30 minute cards. I will grant you that we can't roam to Europe, which kind of sucks, but I'd wager that most people in the US with cellphones don't ever leave the US anyway, it's not like Europe, where most of the countries are larger than our average-sized states.

    If you find land-line billing complex, you must have trouble grasping flat rate pricing (unless you're in California, Chicago, NYC, or one of the other areas without flat-rate calling) It's very simple. If you call someone within your free calling area, it costs you no more, if you call past that, but within your state, it will cost whatever your "in-state" long distance carrier charges you, as per your agreement with them. If you call out of state, it will cost you whatever price you have negotiated with your "in country" long distance carrier. If for whatever reason, you'd prefer to use an alternative carrier to your normal one, use a 101-xxxx code and dial up the carrier you like. Not too hard.

    Where I live, the price of my land line is based on the number of subscriber lines that are within my local calling area. In Arkansas, there are three ranges of numbers. My area was recently re-classified by the PUC as being in the highest group. I still pay only $17/mo for the line (not counting tax and FCC fees, which bring it to $21/mo)

    If you have questions about your telephone bill, you might try calling your telco's customer service number. I'm sure they would be happy to explain the charges you are paying (with the exception of the FCC fees, which the tier 1 support folks have problems grasping).

    The point of this whole thing is simply to point out that we are not being screwed, as we don't pay per minute to call our ISP, or anyone else in the same city (and usually several neighboring ones as well). For those of us who use our phones (both mobile and land line) the US system is a much better deal. BTW, if you want a cellphone for emergency use only, just buy some old analog phone. Federal law mandates that all wireless carriers allow 911 access, for no charge, to all phones capable of operating with that carrier's signal. If, however, you want to talk, you do have to pay, although there may be some CPP plans in larger cities of the US of which I'm not aware.


    Care about freedom?
  • by wierdo ( 201021 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @07:30PM (#115342)

    In my opinion US system is screwed up. You get a ton of minutes you can only use at certain times of day or certain days and have to pay for all of them even if you end up using none.. Paying for what you actually use and getting free receiving makes much more sense(unless you really use all of your monthly quota up every month).

    Apparently, you don't grok the advantages of not having to pay for local land-line calls. In certain cities or states, there are, but in most of the US, it's a flat rate for anywhere within a fairly wide (usually) calling area, and only if you place a long-distance call do you pay per minute. Due to this, along with the lack of mobile phones being in their own area codes, makes it nearly impossible to come up with a plan to implement calling party pays.

    Even if it could be implemented, I would prefer the current system. I don't believe that others who are trying to reach my should have to pay for my own convienence. I pay for 550 minutes/mo with no roaming fees or long distance fees anywhere in the US, on any network with which my carrier has a roaming agreement (most of the carriers serving more than a single county, and at least one anywhere there is mobile phone service). I also get up to 200 text messages/e-mails for free each month. I am almost always within 25 minutes of my alotted 550, so the deal works well for me. I get the convienence of my phone, and having people willing to call that number to reach me, since they don't have to pay.

    Many people argue that the lack of CPP in the US is causing less cellphone usage, but given how everyone I know who wants one has one, I don't really see how that can hold true. There is now even a carrier that gives you unlimited minutes for $29.95/mo, within your home area. Also, in the US, carriers are free to implement some sort of a CPP service, but there is apparently little demand for it.

    People who choose to purchase blocks of Night & Weekend minutes usually do so because the rate is extremely cheap (thanks to the much lower usage during those hours), and that is when they do most of their calling. For people who use their phones during the day, they can also get a phone for $0.10/min or less for a "home area only" plan. It's really up to the individual. It is also possible, with most carriers to have either a small number of minutes or no minutes at all for a small monthly fee, but they charge you $0.40/min or so to use your phone.


    Care about freedom?
  • by anonymous cupboard ( 446159 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @10:36PM (#115343)
    No, the frequency isn't the problem. The issue is with receiver-pays and the lack of wide-area access to carrier without roaming. This scheme didn't just fail in the US, it failed in every country that they forced it on.

    The point is that mobile numbers have a special area prefix, and then they are nationwide. The caller pays extra, but knows this because of the prefix. The receiver doesn't pay unless they are out of the country.

    End result is that with the US-type system, private users like to keep their numbers quiet because of the cost issue whilst with the Europeanm type system, users often give out their mobile numbers in preference to their home numbers because of the ease of reachability.

    This is an economics issue not a straight technical issue.

  • by Kizeh ( 71312 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @06:43PM (#115344)
    There are a few GSM operators in the US. I am
    currently using Voicestream, a couple of my
    friends are with someone else, although I'm not
    sure whom. With GTE, Aerial, AT&T, Alltel and others playing the musical chairs game with networks and names it gets rather hard to keep up.

    In any event, both I and all my friends (with Voicestream and with an alternate carrier) were able to send and receive SMS messages to Finland (Radiolinja), and to each other. I think the situation isn't quite as bad as it seems.

    Now if the US would just finally unbundle phones from ludicrously long-term contracts and let people actually pick the phones they want...
  • by stu_coates ( 156061 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @05:08PM (#115345)
    The UK had similar problems sending SMS messages between networks several years ago. Eventually all of the providers (4 networks in the UK) agreed to forward messages for each other. Most also have agreements with their 'roaming partners' to forward SMS's as well when you're out of the country.

  • Moving from Australia to the US has been a big surprise for me, given that the US is supposed to be benefitting from a more open market in telecommunications.

    In Australia I was paying about US$5 per month for a mobile phone, not paying to receive calls and paying about US$0.25/min for outgoing calls. Given that I don't use the phone that much I was more than happy with that price. I could go anywhere in Australia with that phone and have coverage - all for that one price. I took that phone to Italy and STILL had coverage without even talking to a company in Italy.

    Coming to the US, I find it impossible to get a phone for less than SIX TIMES that price, and find that I can't go to Europe or anywhere and expect to get coverage without getting a totally new phone. I even find that I have to pay for incoming calls. No way in hell I'm going to get a phone here from any company. I don't care - the telcos here just don't have any idea what is possible.

    The "free market" has screwed people in the US so badly that they don't even notice it any more. Even the cost of land lines is higher, lower quality and so hideously complex in the billing that it is absolutely impossible to figure out who you are paying for what.

    To any American who thinks they have it good, think again. The telcos are screwing you for at least 2 to 3 times what you would pay for a BETTER service in any other country.
  • by hero_or_what ( 245446 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @08:03PM (#115348)

    To be precise, networks make use of something called as SMS center as the gateway. This element in the network acts as a router for all messages within the network. So, to send a message, a phone will first send it to the SMS center. The SMS center will then forward it to the recipient. Even if you are sending SMS within the network, it will still be routed via the SMS center.

    The SMS center is addressed as just as any other cellphone in your network. You can find the number in the network settings of your phone.

    Now, the interesting part. For GSM, the interface between the SMS center and the rest of the network is not standardized (GSM standards say that its 'out of scope'). That means your operators can choose whatever they want as the interface between the mobile network and the SMS center. Typically, this interface will be TCP/IP, or IPX or X.25 or SS7. Usually, the vendors who provide the equipment to the operators suggest an interface and the operators go along.

    For U.S. based standards, there is a similar concept. Again, the interface can be TCP/IP or IPX or X.25 or SS7.

    However, the standards for both GSM and the CDMA/TDMA/AMPS don't talk anything about how the SMS center should talk to the rest of the world. This means talking to some other SMS center of any other operator, or some server on the Internet is not 'in scope'. Since the standards don't talk of any such connectivity, the vendors (Big Guys like Nokia, Ericsson, Lucent, Nortel, Alcatel, Seimens, Motorola etc. ) don't have to build SMS centers with external interfaces to be standards compliant. For GSM, the internal interface to the network is a must but external is 'out of scope'. Typically, there is an extra charge for giving the external interface, and so many operators don't go for the equipment. That's why, many operators don't have external connectivity and you end up sending SMS to only people in your network. In the U.S. standards, SMS is a relatively new phenomenon. Many networks haven't had to upgrade to the latest specs, and so there isn't any SMS.

    Taking this issue further, a lot of the GSM operators in Europe make money by allowing people to 'roam' between networks. Therefore, it makes business sense to provide connectivity (SMS/roaming). However, in the U.S. the operators make money mainly from airtime. So, there isn't much incentive to provide roaming or interconnectivity between networks. The end result, you are stuck with either not having SMS or only able to sent it within your network. As far as the rest of the world goes, the folks with GSM have SMS as per standards with external connectivity an optional feature, and the CDMA/TDMA folks depend on the 'age' of their networks.

  • by Jack Porter ( 310054 ) on Sunday July 01, 2001 @05:23PM (#115349)
    All of Europe, Australia, and most of the rest of the world use GSM, which has had SMS as a standard feature since its inception. So pretty much every handset has had SMS MO (mobile originated) and MT (mobile terminated) support since the mid 90s.

    When the networks first offered SMS MO in Australia there was no carrier interoperability - you could only SMS people with the same carrier. Eventually it became more and more popular and the carriers signed interconnect agreements. Some Austrlian networks can't SMS international networks but it all depends on their interconnect and roaming agreements.

    The US, with its mix of different standards and extensive Analog network is a different story. CDMA and TDMA now have SMS MO support, but I don't believe SMS MO was part of the original implementation. So there isn't extensive SMS MO support in existing handsets. Some providers like Sprint are using WAP to implement SMS MO!

    There isn't enough demand to warrant SMS interconnect agreements, there's no single standard, and from a marketing point of view it's almost a reason to stick with the same network as your friends. In Australia, your phone number prefix indicates that it's both a mobile phone, and which network you subscribe to. So before there was interconnect, you could still tell if you could SMS someone based on their phone number. In the US, it's not obvious from the phone number whether your SMS will make it to its recipient, or just end up in a black hole.

    Finally, US cellphone airtime pricing is just time based - there isn't usually a flagfall for originating a call. So it's not really a cost saving to SMS someone instead of calling them, as it is in other parts of the world.

    Things will get more consistent as Cingular and AT&T migrate to GSM, but until there are business reasons to support SMS interconnect, the networks in the US will be slow to move.

Loose bits sink chips.