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Are Cell Phones Reliable?

By Sharon Housley
Posted Sunday, December 12, 2004

Cellular phones and pagers are part of the "now" generation, instant contact, anywhere at any time. People are looking for convenience, comfort and security. The question is how instantaneous and reliable is the contact?

Talking with someone is the main use for a cell phone, yet due to poor reception how often do calls not go through, or important calls "dropped" due to flaky coverage? Let us not forget, that in a time of tragedy, lines were congested and the resounding "all circuits busy" messages were heard from coast to coast. There is certainly room for improvement if you want to reach out and touch someone.

The alternative to voice communication is traditional text messaging, enjoyed by the young as SMS, a 'hip' communication method, and the older as the tried and true paging, a trustworthy means of communication. A carrier receives pages or text messages via a traditional dial up modem or Internet connection to their terminal, and then broadcasts the messages over their network to the appropriate wireless device. How instant is sending a text message? The answer might surprise depends.

Traditional means of sending text messages is surprisingly reliable and fast. However, many cellular carriers, wishing to merge technologies while keeping costs down, have opted to utilize email technology to send text messages. Why not, an email is nothing more than a text message, using the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). On the surface this sounds like a great idea, nearly everyone has email access, and the use of the Internet streamlines the sending of messages.

What is often overlooked, is the fact that email was not designed to be time sensitive. There can be significant delays and an instantaneous receipt can be lost when sending email to a pager or cell phone. Text messages sent via the email protocol SMTP could take a more scenic delivery route. While in many cases, receiving messages in a timely fashion is not critical; some industries require and benefit from the receipt of urgent messages. It is therefore important to realize and make a distinction between the protocols that are designed for instantaneous communication and those that are not.

If sending messages immediately to a cell phone or pager is required, more reliable protocols are available. When sending text messages, via a modem, the Telocator Alphanumeric Protocol (TAP) is extremely dependable, albeit slower due to the modem dialing. If sending messages with a high-speed Internet connection use the newer time sensitive Internet protocols: Simple Network Paging Protocol (SNPP) and Wireless Communication Transfer Protocol (WCTP). If your carrier supports these protocols they are the better options for sending important messages.

If carriers understand the "now" generation is about speed and reliability, customer satisfaction will improve. Text messaging is a reliable and useful communication method, especially since voice is not always convenient or possible. With public awareness and urging, carriers will increase their offerings of text messaging protocols. Carriers should offer email or SMTP, but they must also support time sensitive protocols, regardless, of whether the protocols are older such as TAP or newer such as WCTP.

Resources -
Carriers supporting SNPP - (
Carriers supporting WCTP - (

About the Author
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePage, Inc. ( a company specializing in alphanumeric paging, SMS and wireless messaging software solutions. Other sites by Sharon can be found at (, and (


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