Operators block SMS messages sent via Web

Signaling that sending SMS (Short Message Service) messages via the Internet might soon cost money, two Dutch mobile phone operators have blocked incoming SMS text messages sent via several Web sites and ICQ instant messaging software.

KPN Mobile NV and Dutchtone NV want to see cash. The operators, that together serve about 6.2 million of the roughly 11 million Dutch cell phone users, say they have to allocate space on their network to carry the large volume of messages sent to their customers via the Internet, but don’t get a penny for doing so.

Both operators have blocked incoming messages from South Africa’s M-Cell Ltd., which operates the popular SMS Web site MTNSMS.com, powers the SMS functionality in ICQ and is the parent of mobile operator Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN). In addition, Dutchtone has put a stop on text messages coming from Swisscom Ltd. and MM02 PLC (formerly BT Cellnet PLC).

“Over 80 per cent of the incoming international SMS traffic comes from MTN, Swisscom and BT Cellnet. It doesn’t make us any money and it takes up network capacity that we would rather use to allow our customers to make phone calls,” said Kiki van Erven, a spokeswoman for Dutchtone, a subsidiary of Orange SA.

“The SMS messages are given to us for delivery. It takes network capacity to do that, so it costs us money. There is hardly any SMS traffic from our network to MTN’s network,” said KPN Mobile spokeswoman Caroline Ubachs.

KPN and Dutchtone aren’t the only ones throwing up SMS blockades; it is an international problem, said Pia Rogers, a spokeswoman for Swisscom.

“Other operators have also blocked SMS messages coming from Swisscom. They don’t make any money for distributing international SMS messages. Also, we distribute bulk SMS for advertisers, which has led to objections,” she said.

Swisscom has been blacklisted by 20 operators, including Orange in France, Telef