back to article Ancient pager tech SMS: It works, it's fab, but wow, get a load of that incoming SPAM

The infrastructure for text messaging is creaking. Not only does it need to be fixed, but it seems mobile operators don’t understand enough about their own systems to do it themselves. This is according to Louise O'Sullivan, CEO of mobile solutions firm Anam Technologies. She maintains that the problem that needs fixing lies …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Hmmm

    "But perhaps her biggest challenge is explaining to mobile phone networks that they don’t appear to understand what is going on inside their systems."

    Or more simply, they don't want to buy your product. Deal with it.

    1. Lusty

      Re: Hmmm

      Indeed, any spam filtering would be much easier at the sending end - anyone sending a message with 10000 recipients ought to have some kind of permission to do so since it's unlikely to be an invite to the pub to some mates. Why the receiving end would need to look is beyond me - same as with the postal service, Royal mail offer filtering at a cost to individual households while also charging the person sending the bulk mail for delivering it. I for one don't want to see this same situation on mobile networks where everything is much more traceable.

      1. keithpeter Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Hmmm

        "...anyone sending a message with 10000 recipients ought to have some kind of permission to do so since it's unlikely to be an invite to the pub to some mates..."

        No, but it could be a message to 7,500 or so mobile numbers that has to be sent in a hurry at around 5am to try and prevent wasted journeys through very very bad weather. A quick clean up to get rid of the 10 and 12 digit numbers in the database dump (don't ask) and then a queue of messages via a humble dongle. It worked. I didn't do the clever bit (dongle script).

        We have much slicker systems hanging off the Intranet these days. Prior blanket permission could work I imagine.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        But that is the problem Lusty, they are nabbing a legitimate access number from one of the GSMA members and setting up their own, unmonitored, SMSC and sending the messages out that way; so it looks like the SMS is originating from a legitimate source, if they can spot it in the first place.

        That said, the last spam SMS I had was from O2 in 2008. A letter to their CEO saying that I was on call and needed the phone next to my bed, so sending me special offers at 2 in the morning was not going to get me to look at their offers favourably!

  2. marky_boi

    Yawn, the network I run does this

    The first level of inter-carrier working engineers may not know the network in depth but I can assure you the next level do. This article looks pulled from a press release, it reads like a sales pitch. If a network and it's operators dont know MAP signalling, they deserve all the SPAM they get.

  3. JimmyPage
    Megaphone

    The biggest challenge ...

    is getting the punters to understand that SMS is *not*,l never has been, and never will be a reliable service.

    It's scary the people who *only* send a text in the unwavering belief that it will always be received.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The biggest challenge ...

      I would argue the same thing goes goes for email in terms of lots of users believe that they are always delivered immediately and there is no chance of them getting lost.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: The biggest challenge ...

      Yeah, I got a bollocking from my boss when I got back from holiday. Our bungalow was in a valley with no reception, so I would walk to the top of the next mountain once a day (with the dog) and check email and if there was anything urgent call the company.

      When I got back, after 12 days, I suddenly got an SMS dated 12 days earlier from my boss... He accused me of having switched off the phone, even though I had been replying to emails and calling in to the company every 2 days on average...

      1. brooxta

        Re: The biggest challenge ...

        That doesn't really sound like a holiday...

      2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: The biggest challenge ...

        If your boss is sending you text messages whilst you are on holiday (or, by extension, in the evenings, at weekends, at any time where you are not being paid to be at work), it is he that deserves the bollocking. I would be explaining to him in no uncertain terms that you are paid to work specific hours, and outside those hours, he should not be contacting you with work-related matters.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: The biggest challenge ...

          I would be explaining to him in no uncertain terms that you are paid to work specific hours, and outside those hours, he should not be contacting you with work-related matters.

          I'd be damned annoyed if people didn't let me know about urgent work matters while I'm away, holiday or no. I'm still free to decide whether I want to do anything about them.

          I know this is a difficult concept for many Reg readers, but not everyone holds the same opinion about every subject. Many here seem to think that a "holiday" is a sacred period of time during which it is an unforgivable sin to so much as think about work. There are, however, a few of us who think we should be able to do whatever we damn well please while on holiday, even if that includes keeping a hand in.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The biggest challenge ...

        > He accused me of having switched off the phone,

        You need to get a job in Germany.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: The biggest challenge ...

          I am in Germany... Next tip? ;)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Main Problem

    Is that many smaller networks don't perform any processing on inbound SMS messages from external networks. Instead, they dumbly respond to any old SRI that his their HLR. Most SMSC vendors do actually provide solutions to this (hint: if your SMS inbox isn't full of spam, your carrier is already using one of these solutions). The hard part is usually getting the switch vendor to play ball (assuming they're not also providing the SMSC, in which case your arse belongs to them).

    So yeah, as per above, these are not the droids you're looking for; you may move on.

  5. John Tserkezis

    They understand plenty enough to keep charging 25c for it.

    1. tony2heads
      Unhappy

      @John Tserkezis

      I remember seeing this memorable quote:

      The main expertise of telecoms companies is not telecoms, it is billing

      This fits most situations I have seen when dealing with them.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: @John Tserkezis

        > The main expertise of telecoms companies is not telecoms, it is billing

        Isn't this the solution (if they wanted one)? Tag all the messages with information about who you billed before you forward the SMS. Source-routing after the fact. That bypasses the CallerID spoofing dilemmas.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Only if you are sending the spam and not using your own SMSC; although it is only 19c here to send an SMS, once you have used up your free allotment, assuming you don't have an SMS flatrate.

    3. Tim99 Silver badge

      @John Tserkezis

      I believe the actual cost to the telco is <0.005 , so no price gauging there then...

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        I recall reading somewhere that SMS messages get sent as part of the network synchronisation messages that keep your phone connected to the nearest base station. As such, there is no additional cost to the network for sending and receiving them, only in carrying them across the network, and passing them on to other networks. The cost to the telco of carrying the messages, as opposed to not carrying them, using the infrastructure which is already there, is as close to zero as to not matter.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Not quite, although you are close.

          SMS messages get sent through the GSM control channel that normally handles the control plane traffic (e.g. call sent-up/tear-down, base station hand-over, et al). This implementation came about due to a historical oddity; basically when the GSM standards were first defined they discovered that they had some spare capacity left on the control channel so someone had the bright idea of defining a messaging service although "no-one would ever want to use it" (famous last words IMO); this is way SMS messages have such an odd maximum size - it reflects the message size of the GSM control channel.

          You are right in that SMS transmission is more-or-less "free" to the network operators, their only costs is in maintaining the SMSC and the inter-operator links.

          1. A Twig

            Just wanted to say - cracking answer, clearly put - have an upvote :)

      2. 's water music

        cost vs value

        Networks are billing you for the utility that you ascribe to the service which has little to do with the marginal cost to them. They may also be managing demand although I shouldn't think that capacity is often an issue for them.

  6. Irongut Silver badge

    SPAM?

    What SPAM?

    The only SMS SPAM I get comes from my bank asking me if I want a loan of up to £1.2k once a week. Other than that I've never seen any text message SPAM.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: SPAM?

      For me it was just my carrier spamming me with special offers. A quick letter of complaint to the CEO stopped that. I switched provider shortly after anyway.

  7. AMBxx Silver badge

    Can you turn it off?

    I have no need for SMS - can you turn it off? Grown-ups use email

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Can you turn it off?

      Good for you. Personally, I avoid using email on a mobile device where the data connectivity may be poor or non-existent, where a quick and easy alternative (which doesn't use any of the data allowance) is available.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can you turn it off?

      Not all Mobile devices can use email but ALL can use SMS.

      There are still a lot of dumb phones out there including mine

      Even if I went backwards and started using a smartphone again, I would not setup email on it.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge

        Re: Can you turn it off?

        OK, that may work for you, but can I turn it off?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can you turn it off?

          Most of the time, SMS is less intrusive than a telephone call, less bother than email and does not require "internet" connectivity. I think I read that, among yoof, telephone calls are rare, vastly exceeded by messaging, including SMS. Often, SMS will get through when the signal is too poor for a voice call.

          It's also used a lot by banks and others to verify logins - one logs in, they send a number in an SMS, one types in that number and only now get fully logged in to the site.

          Great for pikett: I really do not want a telêphone ringing for each automatic alert when a system is having problems. Good too for reminders. Not intrusive: still get SMSs while in a meeting, theatre ... (just turn off the beep and make it vibrate). Also useful for sending telephone numbers, addresses, ""I'm late, see you at 10" and so on.

          Get timetable or weather information ...

          No, rather disable the voice calls and internet. Oh, a pager, well, sort of but better, with MMS for when a picture or something is needed.

          I assume the mass SMS distribution lists are via an email interface (used to write and manage such). But personally, I think I may have had just one or perhaps two spam messages since I first got a mobile, in the late 1990s.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Can you turn it off?

            > Most of the time, SMS is less intrusive than a telephone call, less bother than email and does not require "internet" connectivity. I think I read that, among yoof, telephone calls are rare, vastly exceeded by messaging

            I'm not really yoof, yet I rarely make or receive calls. Looking at the log, it's about once every three weeks that I use the phone as a phone.

            Everything else you say, my experience agrees with it.

        2. brooxta

          Re: Can you turn it off?

          @AMBxx

          It's called a tablet. But then you still need a mobile for voice, so it's a catch 22. Unless of course you can make do without GSM/POTS in which case VoIP/Skype may do it for you.

        3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Can you turn it off?

          AMBxx,

          I doubt you can turn text messages off. You can however turn their notifications off, and remove the link to the text app from the home page of your chosen mobile OS. Hide it in a folder somewhere. Then hey presto: No texts.

          Personally I don't like texts. But my Mum does, as do several friends (with a mix of smartphones and dumbphones) At work sometimes, people are in bad coverage areas and need information like addresses, which can be sent by SMS. On a smartphone it's as easy to input as email anyway.

          As with any technology it's horses for courses. You use what gets the job done most efficiently, and get on with your day. Adults don't get dogmatic about their favourite platform...

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can you turn it off?

          You can disable your ability to send an SMS; just delete the number of the SMSC.You cannot stop your mobile from receiving SMS since that is built into the standard.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Can you turn it off?

            Remove your ability to receive texts:

            1) Get yourself an old phone with SIM only text memory or set your phone to store messages only on SIM.

            2) Ensure auto deletion of old/expired text messages is turned off.

            3) Never delete text messages that you receive.

            4) Once your Inbox is full (10 on an old SIM or 40 (I think!?) on a newer one) - presto - no more SMS received!

    3. itzman

      Re: Can you turn it off?

      The answer is not to have a mobile phone at all. Just carry a computer device that doesnt do voice at all, or only VOIP, if such exists.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can you turn it off?

      > Grown-ups use email

      Grown-ups use TELEX.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: Can you turn it off?

        >> Grown-ups use email

        >Grown-ups use TELEX.

        Real grown-ups send messages in cleft sticks. (See Evelyn Waugh's Scoop for details.)

      2. Red Bren
        Trollface

        Re: Can you turn it off?

        >> Grown-ups use email

        >Grown-ups use TELEX.

        Grown-ups can write!

      3. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

        Re: Can you turn it off?

        What's wrong with a cleft stick?

        (Edit: Bugger, Kubla Cant beat me.)

  8. stucs201

    How to cut SMS spam volumes by 90%

    Don't deliver any message with "PPI" or "claim" in it.

    1. Joe Harrison

      Re: How to cut SMS spam volumes by 90%

      Wouldn't that happily cause problems?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
        Happy

        Re: How to cut SMS spam volumes by 90%

        Yes and I'm hopping mad about it!

  9. Jim 59

    Anam

    Anam.ie's web page says "You could say that Anam has grown up with SMS.". But in fact the company was only set up in 2012. It seems to be separate from Anam Mobile, which was founded in 1999 and also seemingly has O'Sullivan as CEO. Both Anam Technologies (anam.ie) and Anam mobile (www.anam.com) resolve to the same web page.

    According to Alexa et al, traffic to anam.ie is almost non existent, and the site (Drupal) is ranked at over 19 million. It is therefore dwarfed by the theregister.co.uk on 3700 and even my own wretched blog on 5 million. This story by el Reg will certainly give them a slashdotting (unless I have it all wrong - entirely possible). They also have a Twitter account but have not tweeted as yet and have no followers seemingly.

    Nothing wrong with that though. It is great to see small/medium sized companies grow. And free coverage in the Reg is fine, so long as it is actually free. I don't agree with others that the article reads like an ad. It doesn't. It is just a little odd that El Reg would have a big story about such an as-yet small firm which has just started up and whose business is still so small.

    1. James 47

      Re: Anam

      'anam' is also Irish for 'name'

      amazing

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Anam

        Not quite..ainm = name

        anam = soul

      2. The Sod Particle
        Coat

        Re: Anam

        so they have genuinely made a name for themselves then...

        doh too late...

  10. Joe Harrison

    Kevin Holley = top bloke

    I used his SMS daemon in the 1990s to provide web->SMS for our entire company.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Making business

    When you start a company, your product is not really supposed to solve a problem. Your product is supposed to solve what your market PERCEIVES as a problem.

    If they can't see the problem, it's either not there or it doesn't bother them. Effectively telling your potential customers "you're all too stupid to see this big problem you have" is a bit too bold of a sales tactic for my comfort.

  12. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    pretty much by-passes the receiving network’s billing systems

    Not in bloody Canada it doesn't. You pay to receive a ****ing message most of which are spam from the network operator.

  13. PeterM42

    Easy answer

    STOP all these scam/spam SMS messages about PPI claims, etc. The System would then have plenty of capacity.

  14. zb42

    Initially the networks allowed interworking by gentlemen’s agreement and an understanding that it was in everyone’s best interest to just accept and deliver messages.

    Until 1999 the UK GM networks did not deliver messages from one network to another, you could only send a text to someone on the same network. They started exchanging messages between networks very reluctantly.

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