Multimedia SMS coming soon

"We needed to stop MMS from diverging into three or four directions. Some saw MMS with a focus on e-mail; others thought it would be a carrier for unified messaging. It has been agreed that MMS will be the evolution of SMS text messaging," said Fergus Murphy, head of product management at the mobile networks division of Logica.

Handset makers and messaging system vendors Nokia, Motorola, Siemens and Ericsson on Monday sent out a statement together with software and systems developers CMG, Comverse Technology, and Logica, stating the united support for MMS as the next version of SMS.

If an application other than SMS had been chosen as a base for MMS, the user interface would have been different, resulting in something new for the user to learn.

"It took over seven years for SMS to take off. We want to stick with the user paradigm of SMS as we now have educated users out there. MMS, like SMS, is about person-to-person communication, not about person-to-e-mail box somewhere on a server communication," said Fredrik Oijer, strategic product manager at Ericsson.

MMS, due out in mobile handsets later this year, will allow users to send multimedia messages from one mobile phone to another. The size of MMS messages is theoretically unlimited. SMS only supports plain text messages that can't be any longer than 160 characters.

The underlying technology for both services is completely different, according to Oijer.

"SMS uses the SMS bearer, one of the signalling channels on the network, whilst MMS is bearer independent. Ericsson will use WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) to send MMS messages," he said.

MMS will work best on a packet-switched mobile network such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) networks and 3G (third-generation) networks, but also works on the circuit-switched GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) networks, according to Oijer.

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