Orange customers hit by delays to SMS services

Mobile operator misses January deadline by quite some way...

Mobile operator misses January deadline by quite some way...

Content providers are still waiting for reverse-billed text messaging from Orange, nearly three months after the services were originally meant to go live. Reverse-billed SMS allows a third party content provider to send a subscriber a message, and then charge for it via their phone bill. The network then takes a percentage and passes the rest on to the content provider. Reverse-billed SMS is seen as a key service for mobile content, be it anything from sports results to overdraft alerts to SMS flirting and ring tone downloading. It forms the basis for information services which are both compelling and profitable - a rare combination in the telecoms industry. Vodafone and BT Cellnet are already offering reverse-billed SMS services, but Orange and One2One (now known as T-Mobile) have been slow to deliver it. As silicon.com reported last December, Orange initially planned to launch reverse-billed SMS in January. However, two sources close to the situation claim that technical problems have delayed the launch. It is now scheduled to go live in April, one of the sources said. Another individual familiar with the situation - Anders Holst, corporate affairs director at SMS carrier Telecom One - said: "It's been pushed further back every month. They're now saying that they will have a commercial launch in April or May. But all the networks have had problems with billing for these services, primarily with getting the prepaid customers connected." BT Cellnet officially launched a reverse-billed SMS service in August last year, but many customers didn't get their systems working for months afterward. Only a handful of trialists, including News International, are running reverse billing on the Orange network at the moment. SMS is a key testing ground for developing the mobile applications that will be essential for operators to drive revenue from 3G networks. The sums operators have borrowed to build these networks are so large that they will need to start data revenues flowing as fast as they can - and any delay in supplying SMS services will have an impact further down the line. The news comes as Orange released the results of a survey saying that "94 per cent of UK businesses are missing out on a vital new revenue stream and improved internal and customer communication by failing to fully utilise text messaging". An Orange spokesman said: "Orange UK has offered a reverse billed text message service to selected partners since September last year. Companies which are already offering services on the Orange UK network include News International, Guardian Unlimited, Teamtalk and Sonera Zed. "Orange intends to introduce reverse billed text messaging to further selected partners shortly, but only once we have ensured that this will be up to our high technical standards."