Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)

Multimedia Messaging Architecture Explained

Mobile phone users who've sent a photo to another mobile have used Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS) Architecture. The core principal behind MMS is one device works as the relay, where at the point of capture the content is encoded through Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) adaptation protocols for the message type.

MMS User Agent Creates the Message

Using our mobile photograph example, the passage of MMS is best understood in these steps:

  • Once encoded, the photo moves to a section of the mobile internet provider's server known as the Multimedia Messaging Service Centre.
  • The multimedia message is deposited here, and now the internet service provider MMSC functions as a server destination.
  • From this point onwards the photo taken by our happy snapper travels very fast through the internet space and can be distributed to many output destinations at once.

So the same photograph can appear within seconds on complex destination systems because the MIME adaptation protocols are unique to Multimedia messages and destination servers receive them faster.

Hardware Required for Effective MMS Distribution

Technically, this is best understood as a function of the increased bit rate of MMS message encoding compared to SMS or text messaging. SMS messages travel at 7-bits and MMS messages utilise 8-bits and therefore benefit from an increased amount of ASCII characters.

Later developments, post 2004, for recipients of MMS messages included content adaptation services, where the delivery server with a HTTP front end would check if the receiving mobile phone was MMS capable. The photo recipient would see a URL address with each photo, as a control message, and could view the photo through an online PC instead of their phone. Known as the legacy experience, this was not an effective way of communicating pictures on mobiles.

Mobile companies could not guarantee photo messages would be received, and could not bill customers for the MMS technology. Market pressure drove inventive architecture designers to create new mobile hardware, adapted for the market in 2008. Chinese cameraphone creators, responsible for the development of a multitude of what we now call smartphones, are to thank for their innovative architecture creation that led to smartphones.

Now that users could receive larger content messages and MMS, the encoding was swiftly incorporated by producers of music, video, sound and pictures where fast-messaging and an ever hungry mobile digital consumer market is desired.

Because of the 8-bit and complex ASCII signature on the messages, they messages are much larger in size than the old SMS. Compared to text messages which comprised 160MB maximum, MMS sizes are vitually unlimited and can be as large as 3GB if high pixellation cameras or videos are the source of the message. For MMS to be received efficiently, most mobile and internet users need hardware with 3G capability or more.

MMS architecture is divided into several sections:


is the interface between a mobile and the message service centre. So in the example of a photo message, MM1 is the architecture used to send the message.


takes the journey from the MMS relay receiver and a MMS storage database. The photo is now stored, ready to be forwarded on.


is the interface between the storage database and the the servers it wants to communicate to. This is where the MIME format is encoded.


is the interface used to exchange the message between the different mobile networks from sender to receiver. Now that the MMS is in MIME form, the exchange takes place.


fetches the routing information being sent from the MM4 mobile network server that has received the transfer of the MMS.


are interface destinations which depend upon the data type. MM6 interacts with database information and is used by internet marketers to send one message to many customers. If the message is a bank statement, for example, the MM7 interface utilises Value-Added Service Providers (VASP) to send MMS from third parties. So if a bank wants your statement sent to you securely, it will use MM1-5 and then MM7 to provide a layer of security. MM8 is for billing systems, like electricity and gas mobile text reminders. MM9 is used by online charging systems - newer technology which you have used if you've swiped your phone in the pub to pay the tab.

Other interesting aspects of MMS architecture is that it is a growing field and one of the most exciting programming adventures. For those who want to innovate how securely we receive mobile phone communications, and how securely we send things out, the race is on. Not to mention how fast it can be sent and received!