AT&T Wireless offers bulk SMS service

AT&T Wireless Services Inc. today introduced a bulk Short Messaging Service (SMS) program designed to allow enterprises to send large volumes of 140- to 160-character messages to targeted customers or groups of employees such as truck drivers or utility company repair crews.

U.S. cellular carriers have been slow to adopt SMS, a phenomenon in the rest of the world with a total of 500 million messages per day transmitted, according to MobileSpring Inc. in New York, which provides SMS billing and interoperability systems to carriers.

AT&T Wireless in Redmond Wash., has developed a sliding scale rate plan for its bulk SMS service, ranging from a charge of US$500 per month, or seven cents per message for 7,500 messages, to $10,000 a month, or five cents per message for 250,000 messages. Users of the SMS service must also pay a one-time set-up fee for connection to the company's Short Message Peer-To-Peer gateway.

The company said target markets include airlines, which can deliver messages about flight information to individual customers; truck fleet operators; dispatch services; and financial services institutions, which can use SMS to deliver stock alerts. Bulk SMS could also be used by utilities to deliver information to their field service personnel, AT&T Wireless said.

Don Boerema, senior vice president for enterprise data services at AT&T Wireless, said in a statement that the company's bulk SMS service will also be able to deliver messages on the networks of other cellular carriers.

That's a key component of success for any SMS service, according to Alan Reiter, an analyst at Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing in Chevy Chase, Md.

Reiter said AT&T Wireless wants to use its bulk SMS service to help drive business into a market "that is going like gangbusters in Europe." The company's focus on the dispatch market, he added, indicates to him that AT&T Wireless is eyeing the hold that Nextel Communications Inc. in Reston, Va., already has on that industry.

Though AT&T Wireless claims its bulk SMS service is a first, vendors such as eWingz Systems Inc. in San Francisco already provide cross-carrier bulk message service in Europe. EWingz plans to roll the service out in the U.S., according to Christine Sanders, a London-based marketing manager for the company.

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