Vodafone and Orange join messaging forces

February 24, 2006

United Kingdom-based cellular providers Vodafone and Orange will soon provide their customers with instant messaging interoperability. The companies unveiled the move at last week's 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona.

"As we have seen over the last few years, service interoperability has unlocked the true potential for mobile. While we, as mobile operators, need to compete at the retail level, we must also continue to work together at the service interoperability level in order to stimulate customer demand and to continue to grow our industry," said Arun Sarin, Vodafone CEO, via a joint statement by the companies.

Currently, mobile operators offer a text messaging service, called short messaging service or "SMS" outside the United States. Users can send these messages to customers of any other mobile operator, without interoperability worries.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said the instant messaging service "essentially looks pretty similar" to traditional text messaging.

"You can send a message to a group of people on your buddy list, and when your buddy's phone is activated, you can see that on your buddy list," said Vodafone Communications Manager Janine Young.

"With a regular SMS, you don't know if the other person's phone is activated."

Young added that SMS text messages are limited to 160 characters, while instant messages can be longer. She also said that the pricing would be comparable for the two services.

"The exact pricing depends on the markets" in various countries, Young said. "Some markets charge on a data volume basis, and since instant messages tend to be longer than SMS messages, the price would be (somewhat) higher."

"However, some markets charge on a message basis, and in that case instant message pricing is very comparable."

In other words, "What might be the norm in Italy is not the way things would be priced in the U.K.," Young said.

Vodafone already has an instant messaging platform available in 11 countries and based on open standards, and Orange has already launched a similar platform in France, with plans to launch in the U.K., Romania and the Netherlands later in 2006.

Also, in June 2005, Vodafone and MSN announced an agreement, to enable seamless instant messaging between MSN computer users and Vodafone Messenger customers.

The Orange-Vodafone agreement, which the companies said was the first between multi-national mobile operators to launch such an interface, would allow Orange and Vodafone instant messengers to communicate with each other.

The agreement does not cover computer-to-phone messaging, such as the service offered by America Online in the United States. According to Vodafone spokeswoman Janine Young, this kind of move is feasible in the future, although it is a more technically complex undertaking.

Orange and Vodafone are also encouraging cell providers and Internet service providers to adopt the same open standard approach. To date, the companies have received support and interest from China Mobile, O2 UK, Telefonica Movile Espana, T-Mobile International and Turkcell, according to the companies' statement.

The Orange-Vodafone agreement means that users will be able to take advantage of the service in any country where both companies operate.

"I think (it's) great," said Jordan Berg, an American doing his master's degree in London. Berg uses the Fresh cell phone service, through a company called Car Phone Warehouse.

"It'll work well here. That's all people do here when they are out, is text," he said.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: What police can learn from a terrorist's discarded mobile phone

Related Stories

Texting turns 20, LOL

December 10, 2012

It's been an especially fruitful week for rueful lamentations about "kids today." Monday marked the 20th anniversary of the text message. Along with it came the predictable chorus of bellyaching about the demise of literacy, ...

Vodafone Simply: the more the better?

May 21, 2005

Vodafone announced the launch of Vodafone Simply, a new, easy to use mobile service which has been designed for customers who only want a mobile phone with voice and text services. Vodafone Simply is aimed at people who ...

Recommended for you

Amazon deforestation leaps 16 percent in 2015

November 28, 2015

Illegal logging and clearing of Brazil's Amazon rainforest increased 16 percent in the last year, the government said, in a setback to the aim of stopping destruction of the world's greatest forest by 2030.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.