SMS Joins Mainstream of Business Communications Modes

It’s amazing this took so long. According to Wikipedia, 4.1 trillion SMS (short message system) communications were sent in 2008, worldwide. But virtually all of this messaging activity has been personal, as SMS has been the exclusive province of mobile phone operators. Solutions for business use are nearly non-existent – until now.

San Diego, California-based Telcentris, a CLEC (def.) and creator of the PC-based communications application Voxox, recently announced a major expansion of its end-to-end carrier services portfolio. The centerpiece of the announcement was the launch of SMS Solutions, one of the first SMS offerings designed to address the needs of businesses looking to SMS-enable their products or services.

We had an opportunity to speak with Kevin Hertz, CTO at Telcentris, who filled us in on the thinking behind the move.

“Traditionally, SMS was something you could only do between cell phones,” Hertz told Enterprise VoIPplanet. “And it is expensive – a few cents up to ten or fifteen cents a message. That can really add up, when young people are averaging three to four thousand messages a month.” (As another data point, Wikipedia’s SMS article pegs the price of the average SMS at 11 cents.)

Hertz alluded to the recent announcement by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg of an integrated messaging application within facebook, in which Zuckerberg asserted that e-mail has been largely rejected by today’s young people as an overly slow and formal way to communicate, preferring SMS and instant messaging.

Businesses taking note of this sea change will want to begin moving their communications technologies in these directions as well.

“We’re taking SMS out of the cellular-only market and making it available across the board to any business that has a need for that type of messaging or phone numbers that can receive and send that type of messaging,” Hertz explained.

“An example might be Joe’s Pizza shop that wants to send out an SMS notification when your pizza’s on the way. Or it could be something on a larger scale, such as a phone carrier that’s deploying traditional landline phones but wants to offer a cutting edge service of SMS-enabling the phone numbers on those landlines.”

Telcentris’s wholesale solution allows businesses to implement SMS services any way they like, “and to do it at a relatively low cost,” Hertz said. “We feel that that we’re a force in bringing the cost down and utilization up.”

The minimum SMS order – and Telcentris offers this service option both to carriers and direct to enterprise customers – is 10,000 messages per month. At that level, pricing is 2 to 3 cents per outbound message, sent anywhere in the world, and a fraction of a penny for incoming SMSs. Higher-volume orders bring down prices further.

As to implementation options, one simple one is to use an IP desk phone that supports SMS (Hertz uses Polycom phones at Telcentris.) Users can type messages using the keypad and read incoming messages on the phone’s screen.

“Another example we’ve seen customers do is SMS to e-mail,” Hertz said. When a text message comes in to one of their phone numbers, they just forward it on to the user’s e-mail address and they receive it there.” Telcentris customers have also implemented SMS-to-IM, according to Hertz, where incoming SMS messages are translated and show up as instant messages.

Beyond the SMS piece, Telcentris’s wholesale carrier services portfolio offers pretty much whatever a carrier might need to enable their platform. “We can offer you DIDs in over 7,000 rate centers in the U.S. and Canada, and 40 countries worldwide,” Hertz told VoIPplanet. “We also offer termination services and outbound calling to the entire planet at very, very competitive rates.”

Additional Telcentris carrier services include enhanced 911 and white label 411 directory assistance service, local number porting, and hosted PBX service.

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