Recent studies find that about 30 percent of Americans prefer receiving an SMS text message to getting a phone call. Certainly the percentage is far higher for teenagers, and it’s growing for the populace as a whole.
Given the popularity of this Johnny-come-lately mode of communication, it shouldn’t be surprising that over the past eight to ten months, the technology has begun to “escape” its home of origin—the mobile networks—and show up in IP communications networks.
The latest manifestation of this, the Text Everywhere service, comes from Neustar, Inc., a communications company perhaps uniquely positioned to bring IP-based SMS to a broad swath of the North American public—businesses and consumers alike.
As the contract administrator of the North American Dialing Plan, Neustar controls area codes and phone numbers for all of North America, plus several other regions. In a related activity, they also maintain the NPAC or Number Portability Administration Center, a vast registry that contains relevant intelligence on all the phone numbers, and how to efficiently route communications between provider networks.
Being the creator and administrator of this registry, has made it possible for Neustar to SMS-enable its entire network so its carrier customers can offer text messaging services to its customers, without having to confront the technical complexity or the startup costs of implementing such a service Mike Kane, Neustar product management and marketing executive, told Enterprise VoIPplanet.
“As we were talking to broadband wireline operators, one of the emerging requirements many of them had was for text messaging,” Kane said, “but they were having a really hard time building the ecosystem for texting. As we talked more we realized that they had no experience with the wireless ecosystem—how to get to aggregators, how to white-list your numbers so they could be accessed by the network.”
But that kind of expertise is stock in trade to Neustar, Kane pointed out. “We do all that today in voice and multimedia applications, so it didn’t seem to us to be a huge stretch to look at the ecosystem and provide that kind of linkage for texting.” The result was Text Everywhere.
With Text Everywhere service, any device that can connect with an IP network—either directly or over a Wi-Fi link—can send and receive text messages. “We provide all the necessary linkages behind the scenes to allow you to do that, all the way down to either providing a client or a service development kit for the customer to build their own white-label client to run this thing,” Kane stated.
Text Everywhere is a pure cloud service. “We wanted to make this easy,” Kane said. “There’s no up-front cost; there’s no equipment you have to buy, no license that you have to buy. You pay on a per-subscriber basis.”
(That per-subscriber price is very low indeed—starting at $2 a month per subscriber “at zero volume,” according to Kane, and dropping well below $1 “at volume.” And this is for unlimited text messaging.)
Also central to the ease of use issue is the provisioning piece. “This uses the same NPAC provisioning environment the operators are already using today when they add a new phone number,” Kane explained. It’s exactly the same form. “They just have to add one field: ‘Is this phone number text enabled?’ Click, you’re done.”
“We call it Text Everywhere in part because we are expanding the way you can text, from a wireless phone to broadband phones, to PCs, tablets—and televisions, through the same technology the [cable operators] use for caller name display on the screen—so now you can send and receive text everywhere.”
But wait, it gets better: “We’ve introduced some services to go along with this,” Kane said. “For example we launched a SimRing [simultaneous ring] type of service, so with a Web management screen you can set up rules about how you want to be reached when somebody texts you.
“If texts from you are important to me, I could, say, set it up so all texts you send show up on my living room TV, my smartphone, and my laptop. If I’m watching TV, the message will flash on the screen. But, if I have my laptop handy, that’s an easier way to respond. If I leave the house, the whole thread is also on my mobile phone.”
Furthermore, with business usage in mind, Neustar has built auditing into Text Everywhere. Every SMS message can be forwarded to an e-mail client. “If you’re an enterprise, we can support S/Ox requirements by sending a copy of texts employees send, to IT, creating an audit trail of text, which they can search on, track, and archive for historical purposes.”
But this feature can work in interesting ways for consumers, as well. Suppose you want your kids to be able to text you during the day, but you don’t want them texting others, you set it up to forward to your e-mail copies of all the texts they send. This lets you keep tabs on what they’re doing.
Finally, Kane said, Text Everywhere is a chance, once again, to establish a single number reach. “If I give you my home phone number, and it’s text-enabled, I can forward that—at no cost—to my mobile phone, my laptop, and my tablet as well. It’s essentially a one-number service for texting that will reach me wherever I am. You could look at it like the rebirth of the home phone number as the way you’re going to be reached,” Kane observed.