SMS - more than just a short text message

At the beginning, nobody could have envisaged the impact SMS would have until kids started to use it. The first SMS was sent in 1992 and was a simple Christmas greeting. Today, SMS has evolved and in combination with other services can create real benefits for entire communities. At TeliaSonera, we have been offering SMS services right from the beginning and have seen how it has grown over the years and how it has been used in many different ways.

Creating communities
Last year in Sweden, a young entrepreneur in a rural village, Tolg in the South of Sweden created a web solution that used plain SMS to arrange commutes for the village inhabitants. Now, a year later, twenty or so communities are initiating this service, which does not only save travel time and money but has also proven to be a catalyst in creating a better sense of community and belonging.

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In Kazakstan, together with local authorities, we distributed bulk SMSs  to inform and raise awareness concerning critical healthcare issues of public interest, such as: epidemics warnings, information about vaccination, blood donation, etc.

In Eurasia, our operators provide subscribers with SMS services to communicate with: FaceBook, Twitter, VKontacte, Moi Mir.Mail.ru, Odnoklassniki and other social networks. They also offer Gmail SMS: this service allows sending free SMS messages from the dialog box of your Google chat.

Making phones accessible to hearing impaired people
In Estonia, EMT has introduced a special package for deaf people providing incredibly cheap SMSs and video calls. This is important, as video calls can be used as a channel for using sign language via the mobile phone. EMT cooperated with the Estonian Deaf Association to sell this package.
In Kazakhstan, Georgia and Moldova we introduced a special rate SMS-based service for hearing-impaired people -launched in 2005 in Georgia, in 2006 in Moldova and in 2009 in Kazkhstan, plus special customer service via SMS.

In times of natural disaster
Often when a natural disaster hits, mobile voice technology might be impacted and it is then that simple SMSs can prove essential. In Lithuania, TEO provided 12 short numbers free of charge for local campaigns to raise money for local disasters and social projects. In Denmark we have entered into collaboration with the Danish Foreign Ministry about sending out warning SMSs to Danish citizens who are in disaster or crisis areas abroad.

In Georgia, during the military conflict in 2008 we launched a service called WAR facts via MMS/SMS – this was a service which provided immediate updates on the conflict. We also provided a dedicated Hot Line Number 5555, to enable those persons in the war regions to send pictures, SMSs and MMSS, basically to share information, which was nearly impossible via voice calls.
In 2011, we sent 160 million SMSs to alert our customers about natural disasters in Uzbekistan and in 2012 already 180 million SMSs have been sent. In Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Moldova, SMSs are used for public fund raising campaigns.

Promoting health and education
In Moldcell, we launched SMS based healthcare services. Basically, the SMSs serve as a reminder service for taking medicine on time for tuberculosis and HIV infected patients. It is also an informing and educating service for expecting and new mothers.

In Kazakhstan, we launched “Phrase of the day” service in cooperation with the British Council which allows subscribers to learn English through SMSs. The subscriber receives a word a day, including its translation into Russian and Kazakh, a phrase and at the end of the week receives a test.

A few years ago, we introduced an SMS-based service, in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Uzbekistan and Nepal, enabling university applicants to find out about their entrance exam results. In Azerbaijan, we have  also launched an E-agenda SMS service for parents providing them with their children’s daily grades received at school.

SMS has in many ways facilitated the way we communicate over the last 20 years and has brought us all a lot closer. No doubt many more valuable community related services will appear over time.

Author: Kristina Hunter Nilsson