MX Telecom Reverse Billing SMS Service - UK Details

Overview

The MX Telecom Reverse Billing SMS Service is the future of micropayment SMS billing. There are, however, several implementation issues that exist with such a service, which are detailed below.

Mobile Operator Subscribers (Q1 2006) SMS Billing
Post-Pay Pre-Pay Total
T-Mobile 3,248,000 13,113,000 * 16,362,000 * Yes
O2 5,686,000 10,654,000 16,341,000 Yes
Orange 4,898,000 10,060,000 14,958,000 Yes
Vodafone 6,345,000 8,061,000 14,405,000 Yes
3 3,500,000 + ** Yes
Virgin Mobile Yes
Guernsey Telecom Yes
Manx Telecom Yes

* The threshold period for active subscribers is 90 days for all networks except T-Mobile. Within T-Mobile's figures, active Virgin Mobile subscriptions are reported using the 90 day activity definition but other subscriptions are reported on a different basis which means that the figures will be greater than had they been prepared on the same basis as the other operators. This should be taken into account when comparing data in the table above.

** Q2 2006 figures.

Contents

Before launching a reverse billing SMS service in the UK, the following issues need to be understood, addressed and implemented:

"Opt-in" and "opt-out" nature of a reverse billing SMS service

Legal issues

You must ensure that each user receiving reverse billing SMS text messages has "opted-in" for receiving reverse billing SMS text messages. You must also ensure, that the user can easily "opt-out" of such a service as well.

Best implementation strategy

Users need to initially send a normal SMS text message to a short code "send-in" number. (For sending in this normal SMS text message, the user will pay their normal text messaging price). This confirms a user has opted in to the service you are offering. With a user's consent, you are then entitled to keep on sending reverse billing SMS text messages to that user, as long as the user can somehow opt out of the service at any stage. Possible opt-out mechanisms include providing the user with the ability to send a normal SMS text message opting out of your service, or a phone number to dial opting out, or an email address for cancellation requests.

Technical restrictions

In order to enforce the above, the MX Telecom SMS Server Reverse Billing Edition will not allow a reverse billing SMS to be sent to any user, unless they have sent in a normal text message to your short code or shared keyword short code.

Reverse billing SMS users need to be on the correct network

Legal issues

You must ensure that each User receiving Reverse Billing SMS text messages is on the correct Mobile Network. For example, if a User is an Orange UK subscriber, but signs up to your service which only covers Vodafone UK users, then you must ensure you do not send them Vodafone Reverse Billing SMS text messages. If not, no revenue will be generated from that user, and you will be charged for sending that text message.

Best implementation strategy

The only way of confirming 100% that a user is on a certain network in the UK, is if they can send a normal SMS text message into a short code that is only accessible from their network. In the UK each mobile network has its own short codes, which can only be accessed by users on that particular network. For example, users on the Orange network cannot send a text message into a Vodafone short code.

Technical restrictions

In order to enforce the above, the MX Telecom SMS Server Reverse Billing Edition will not allow a reverse billing SMS to be sent to any user, unless they have sent in a normal text message to your short code or shared keyword short code.

Mobile Terminated versus Mobile Originated reverse billing SMS

Issues

Mobile Terminated (MT) reverse billing SMS means the end user is billed for receiving reverse billing SMSs. Mobile Originated (MO) premium rate SMS billing means the end user is billed when they send into a premium rate SMS billing short code. All the UK networks (Vodafone, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Three and Virgin Mobile) offer both Mobile Terminated and Mobile Originated SMS billing.

Best implementation strategy

Mobile Terminated reverse billing SMS offers far more flexibility than Mobile Originated reverse billing SMS. The main reason for this lies with the ability to run subscription based services. For example, users need only send in one normal SMS Text Message with the word "SUBSCRIBE", and receive reverse billing SMS text messages on their mobile phone each day for the rest of the year. Users do of course, need the ability to unsubscribe to a service should they so choose.

Alternative solutions

If running a competition or voting service, where the service only requires a user to send in a Text Message, Mobile Originated Reverse Billing SMS would be the preferred option. However, using Mobile Terminated Reverse Billing SMS, you can simply reply to the User who has voted / entered a competition, with a Reverse Billing SMS text message informing them that their vote / entry has been received.

Keyword or short code approach?

Legal issues

MX Telecom offers companies the ability to have either their own short codes, or instead use a shared short code. An added benefit of a dedicated short code is the fact that it includes a dedicated billing account from the mobile operator.

Best implementation strategy

MX Telecom offers the use of its own "Shared Short Codes" or can provide you with your own short code instead. With a dedicated short code, any SMS text message that arrives on your short code is automatically sent to you via the Internet. If using a Shared Short Code, a keyword needs to be chosen. Consequently any SMSs arriving on the Shared Short Code will need to begin with the chosen keyword(s).

Technical restrictions

MX Telecom recommends the use of dedicated short codes where possible. Companies need to be aware that certain services, such as "Chat" services, where users responses are not based upon a keyword, are not compatible with a Shared Short Code.

Incomplete revenue outpayments and separate accounts

Legal issues

Due to certain billing problems at the mobile network level, certain network operators do not always outpay 100% of the expected reverse billing SMS revenue generated. Operators will only outpay revenues that they claim they have received themselves. All reverse billing SMS contracts take account of this issue.

Best implementation strategy

By having a dedicated short code, you have your own billing account with each operator, meaning you have full visibility of statistics for all SMS messages sent from that short code.

Technical issues

A reverse billing SMS account, offers live online access to logs detailing sent messages along with a timestamp and the destination mobile phone number are available to each account. Logs also include the SMS messages themselves, as well as your optional sub account details, information notes, and IP addresses.

Advertising & pricing issues with reverse billing SMS services

Legal issues

All message prices need to be clearly identifiable to service users. Message prices should be quoted inclusive of VAT on any promotional material. Users also need to be fully aware of the number of SMS text messages they will be receiving, as well as how to opt out of a reverse billing SMS service.

Best implementation strategy

All advertising needs to be very clear and accurate.

Billing cycles and contract duration

Legal issues

As is the case for premium rate numbers, billing cycles are based on calendar months. Outpayments for each calendar month are paid one month in arrears. The contract duration depends upon the use of either a dedicated or Shared Short Code. For a dedicated short code, minimum contract duration is 12 calendar months. For a Shared Short Code, the minimum contract duration is three months.

Best implementation strategy

If a reverse billing SMS account is opened midway through a calendar month, the revenue outpayments will be based upon that calendar month only.

How to run a subscription reverse billing SMS service

Legal issues

You must ensure that each user receiving reverse billing SMS text messages as part of a subscription service is fully aware of the price and frequency of the messages they will receive. The user needs to have opted in to the service, and must have the ability to opt out easily.

Best implementation strategy

Reverse billing SMS is an ideal solution for subscription based services. Unlike premium rate numbers, a user can send one single SMS into a short code with the word SUBSCRIBE, and receive a reverse billing SMS Text message every day for the rest of the year. The onus is therefore upon the user to unsubscribe from a service, rather than keep on subscribing each day for a reverse billing service.

Technical restrictions

The MX Telecom SMS Server Reverse Billing Edition will not allow a reverse billing SMS to be sent to any user, unless they have sent in a normal text message to your short code or shared keyword short code.

How to run a two-way reverse billing SMS service

Legal issues

You must ensure that each user receiving reverse billing SMS text messages as part of a standard two-way reverse billing SMS Service, is fully aware of how expensive the resulting reverse billing SMS will be. Because standard two-way messaging only involves a single reply to an information request, there is no need for an opt-out requirement, as only one SMS response is generated.  

Best implementation strategy

As mentioned in the "8-bit Smart Messaging and multi-part SMS issues" section below, some messages (especially 8-bit messages) require more than one SMS text message to be sent. Consequently, the user will in fact be billed for each reverse billing SMS text message that he/she receives. Therefore, if for example, a single two-part ringtone is sent to a user on a 1 GBP reverse billing SMS tariff rate, then the user will actually be billed 2 GBP. The User must be fully informed in such a situation of the costs involved.

Technical restrictions

The MX Telecom SMS Server Reverse Billing Edition will not allow a reverse billing SMS to be sent to any user, unless they have sent in a normal text message to your short code or shared keyword short code.

8-Bit Smart Messaging and multi-part SMS issues

Legal issues

GSM SMS text messages have a length limit of 160 characters. For longer messages, the SMS Server automatically sends a multi part series of SMS messages. The SMS Server is also able to send certain 8-bit Smart Messages (such as ringtones, group graphics, EMS, picture messages and operator logos) to certain Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola mobile phones, many of which are multi-part SMS text messages. Users will therefore be billed for each multi-part SMS, even though it appears as if they have only received a single SMS Text message on their mobile handset.

Best implementation strategy

It is important to check the number of SMS text messages that are required for each kind of Smart Message. Many Smart Messages vary in length (especially ringtones, whose length is based upon the duration of the tune).

Technical restrictions

Please take a look at the Smart Messaging section which details Smart Messaging compatibility and technical issues.

Technical connection issues and limitations

Legal issues

The MX Telecom SMS Server Reverse Billing Edition will not allow a reverse billing SMS to be sent to any user, unless they have sent in a normal text message to your short code or shared keyword short code.

Best implementation strategy

All reverse billing SMS Services needs to be based around the concept of a user initially sending an SMS text message into a reverse billing short code.

Technical restrictions

Mobile operators have the contractual right to delay the transmission of reverse billing SMS text messages, although it happens rarely.

Delivery reports

MX Telecom offers delivery notifications and confirmations of definitive delivery or otherwise of SMSs sent to mobile phones.

Code of Practice (PhonepayPlus)

The key point to remember when implementing a reverse billing SMS Service is the opt-in and opt-out functionality users need to have. As long as you can prove a user can subscribe and then unsubscribe to a service, the network operators will have no issues.

For concerns regarding implementation of a reverse billing SMS Service, please contact us or refer to PhonepayPlus (the governing body for all phone-paid services, including reverse billed SMS), which publishes and enforces a Code of Practice.

Account setup

Depending upon the network operator in question, and the exact setup required, a Reverse Billing Edition account can usually be set up within 24 hours for a Shared Short Code. If a dedicated short code is required, this needs to be set up directly by the operator. The time required for this varies, but is usually in the region of five to ten working days.

Service level agreement and support

The MX Telecom SMS Server uses direct connections into the heart of mobile network SMS Centres (SMSCs), providing high capacity, reliable, and fast SMS connectivity, direct to an end user's mobile phone. MX Telecom only uses its own direct connections to various operators, and does not go through any third party providers. It is a complete solution, hosted, designed, developed and supported by MX Telecom.

Although MX Telecom can offer a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for the MX Telecom SMS Server Reverse Billing Service, the SLA only goes as far as MX Telecom delivering or receiving an SMS into or from a UK mobile operator's SMSC. Unfortunately, no UK mobile operators currently offer SLAs for their SMS services.

For more information, please contact us at 1-877-698-3532 or via email at sales@uk.openmarket.com.