Operators can gain a five times increase in SMS capacity by installing intelligent SMS routers in their network before messages hit the SMSC, according to two equipment vendors in the market.
With an increasing number of SMS spikes around TV, radio and other voting events, dealing with the need for extra SMS capacity is key for mobile operators.
But the current store-forward architecture of SMSCs is unnecessary and hampers operators, according to Jeff Wilson, chairman of Telsis.
"The underlying text architecture was never planned to cope with maximising the kind of SMS revenues operators are now faced with," he said. "SMSCs are not equipped to handle large peaks and there are many examples of SMS network crashes."
Andrew Downing, Telsis cto, said that the ubiquity of mobile ownership makes the store and forward function of SMSCs unnecessary.
"Between 70 and 90% of SMS are delivered first time, yet most operators still have a traditional architecture and can't support seasonal highs. It is also costly to provision and maintain SMSC capacity, and this is limiting growth and revenues," he said.
The answer is to have intelligent SMS routing, Downing said.
"The MSC can't add value to text as it can to voice, it just routes it straight through. An SMS router enables an operator to add value by analysing the message details to intelligently route the message."
The router will decide which messages need to go to the SMSC to be stored, and which can go straight over the network to their destination.
"When a phone is on and available you don't actually need the SMSC. Direct delivery gives a five times increase in capacity," Downing claimed.
For people to machine messages, such as a voting application, the router can identify the application and route the message around the SMSC. The router can also perform load balancing, to share SMS load amongst SMSCs on the network, rather than sending the message to the nearest SMSC by default.
"The SMSC is the main bottleneck, it has limited input capacity, delays on store-and-forward and limited connections to service providers, which are stuck with limited bandwidth," Andrew Bowen, product manager, commercial partnerships, at Vodafone said. He added that in voting applications the pinch is in getting all the votes down one piece of wire to the application at the end. Even if a network can handle high peaks the response from the application back to the voter is spread out over a long time, which can affect user perceptions of the vote.
"Using the Telsis SDN for the first time we have a true picture of all the votes issuing at any one time. We can put SMS through SMSCs where we do the billing etc. But we can also deliver text directly through, bypassing the charging mechanism. Or if there is over capacity we can start call gapping."
Although Vodafone has not integrated the routing platform with its billing function, and must pass messages through its SMSCs to capture billing data, Telsis says that the router can be integrated with billing mechanisms.
That is also the view of another player in the SMS routing space, Empower Interactive.
Empower's Richard Shearer said the important point was being able to separate applications (eg voting) traffic from person to person traffic.
"The difference is that applications are available the whole time so if we can identify application traffic as it hits the network we can keep it off SS7 and the SMSC and route it into the application, typically via IP.
"This brings huge cost savings as IP is about one thousandth the cost of SS7, as well as huge benefits in network integrity."
Shearer said that in fact 50-60% of SMS messages are delivered first time, but agreed that the separation of the store and forward component was a "big architectural shift".
"The key is that operators don't need to invest in further SMSCs if they have headroom." With the predicted boom in MMS, it will be even more important operators have a scalable architecture, Shearer said.
"Operators haven't invested an awful lot in messaging infrastructure for a couple of years," he said. "They now need to be looking critically at it and making decisions most appropriate to what they see looking forward."