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Can't We All Get Along?

From the point of view of the telecom industry, there is a lot to be gained because retooling networks to accommodate text messages is a relatively low-cost endeavor. It becomes an add-on capability that adds considerable revenue for low incremental investments. After all, if the network is not being used for voice, the next best thing is data for attractive rates. In the U.S., fee packages for SMS average about 10 cents per message!

Cooperative efforts among the telecoms, which would certainly boost the customer base, have yet to materialize in the States. Until very recently, an AT&T Wireless customer could only send a text message to another AT&T Wireless customer because both were on a TDMA network. Likewise, the same was true with the other carriers, including Sprint PCS (with a network built upon the CDMA standard), Cingular (a hybrid of SBC Communications), and Bell South (which maintains both a TDMA and a GSM network).

This changed somewhat in Spring 2002, with the deployment of the InphoXchange platform from InphoMatch, which allows messages from ATT Wireless and VoiceStream to be transmitted across networks. However, there is a catch! Receivers of messages can only reply; they cannot initiate a message unless they are customers of ATT Wireless or VoiceStream.

Additionally, the staggered entry onto the interoperability playing field is only bound to cause confusion because each one of the top six has its own game plan. For instance, AT&T Wireless has had service available since November 2001. Yet Nextel will not launch until the summer of 2002. Spring PCS has no plans for two-way SMS, while smaller operators like Leap Wireless are waiting on the sidelines until the dust settles.

Even so, if one is to believe the forecasters, America is next in line for an explosion of mobile text writing that will pour instant riches into the coffers of the telecoms. Those who traverse the world of high-tech will recognize this hyperbole; unfortunately, despite the sobering burst of the Internet bubble, this type of oversell at the prospects of found revenues is still very prevalent.

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