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Text messaging poised for rollout via DECT, land lines

Telcos look to wireless money spinners for revenue

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Text messaging, a huge success for the mobile phone business, is now poised for take-off via fixed lines as well, with some intriguing implications. Eatoni Ergonomics, which produces the Letterwise predictive text entry software for handheld devices, says it has struck licensing deals with Siemens, Philips and Panasonic, who will be using the software on their next generation of SMS cordless phones in Europe, and that this gives it over half of the SMS DECT market.

Not that this is currently a large market, but it has prospects. DECT (the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telephony standard) SMS (Short Message Service) systems are already available in Italy and Germany, but widespread rollout has been slowed by the lack of a single standard. This is now in place (ETSI's Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT), Low Rate Messaging Service (LRMS) including Short Messaging Service (SMS), since you ask) and the carriers are gagging for it.

In order to have SMS on a DECT phone, you need two things - an SMS-capable handset, and a carrier offering SMS services (well, obviously). According to Eatoni technical director Terry Jones, the way it will likely operate is that you'll phone a number given to you by your carrier which will then flag your phone as enabled to receive SMS, and off you go.

The handsets themselves will have to have large enough screens for you to be able to read text messages, and actually will tend to look rather like the current generation of mobile phones. Some, indeed, will be mobile phones as well, but let's not overcomplicate matters right now.

Granted the fixed line phone companies are looking to the mobile companies are looking to the mobile industry for inspiration, why stop at SMS? As ETSI says: "the Low Rate Messaging Service (LRMS), now under approval procedure, provides a means for the slow, acknowledged or unacknowledged, transfer of multimedia message objects, including the Short Message Service (SMS). It provides both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint messaging. This service may be used for private and public roaming applications."

That could cover quite a range of applications, but is only one part of the DECT picture. DECT can for example support roaming (so your home handset could be used in public access DECT networks), and a second version Packet Radio System supporting data speeds of up to 2Mbit/s is in the works. ETSI delightfully describes this as "high-speed data," but although it's no great shakes by 802.11x standards, it might have utility if it creeps into the home along with standard phone handsets, or indeed in "low-cost domestic devices," which is mooted along with quite a bit else here.

Too many standards already? DECT's already missed the boat, and anyway, isn't available in the US? Perhaps - but if the fixed link telcos decide it's a money-spinner, perhaps not. ®

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