Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)

An Overview of Multimedia Messaging (MMS)

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) allows for the creation and transmission of multimedia messages that contain short text, graphics, pictures, video clips or sound files from one mobile phone to another over wireless networks using the wireless application protocol (WAP). In fact, MMS extends the core Short Message Service (SMS) that allows for the exchange of text messages of up to 160 characters in length. Generally, the maximum message size is 600KB for the MMS 1.3.

How MMS works

Unlike SMS, the MMS system uses GPRS and 1xRTT data connectivity technologies, and therefore, the configuration required for its application is more complicated than that of SMS. To send an MMS message, first the sending device encodes the multimedia content in a Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) format, which supports non-text attachments and message bodies with multiple parts. Then, the message is forwarded to the store and forward server on the mobile operator network (MMSC) so that the message can be sent to the recipient's mobile operator network using the WAP.

If the recipient's device is MMS compatible, the content is extracted and stored in a temporary storage server with a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which supports the distribution of data through the Internet. Then, the recipient receives an SMS message with the URL of the content to initiate the WAP browser to receive the content for the embedded URL. Moreover, content adaptation is performed so that the multimedia content is converted to a suitable format for the recipient's device.

If the recipient's device is not MMS compatible, the message is stored to a web-based service in order to be viewed from a regular internet browser. The recipient receives a URL as a normal text message. The handset settings can be converted to MMS capable, provided that the handset supports MMS. The handset configuration requires a set of parameters to be adjusted so that the handset can receive MMS.

Is MMS like E-mail?

Multimedia Messaging Service may operate similarly to email when attaching videos or pictures to a text message instead of integrating them into a full presentation. However, typically, an MMS is integrated into a presentation so that the text, graphics, photographs, video clips or sound files are displayed as a single message that can be sent directly to a recipient's e-mail address. On the contrary, an e-mail format supports separate attachments, so, generally, an MMS is not the same as an e-mail.

Protocols Used

There are different MMS protocols related to the use of Multimedia Messaging Service, including MM1, MM3, MM4 and MM7. More specifically:

  • MM1 protocol: used to define how a handset can receive and send messages through the store and forward server on the mobile operator network (MMSC).
  • MM3 protocol: used to define the requirements of how an MMSC should interact with other operating systems to ensure an uninterrupted operation.
  • MM4 protocol: used to interconnect several MMSC networks.
  • MM7 protocol: used to enforce Value Added Service Provider (VASP) applications to send and receive MMS messages through the use of an MMSC.
  • Important Considerations

    Although Multimedia Messaging Service is efficiently used, there are certain challenges, which unlike SMS, they need to be addressed. These are:

    Bulk messaging: when MMS is used for the transmission of messages to a large number of recipients, the service may become inefficient, especially in the case of Value Added Service Provider (VASP) applications. When a single MMS is sent, the sender can receive a delivery report and a read-reply report for every recipient in the sender list. However, as this option may create transactional overhead, it is expected to be optimized in the future MMS specifications.

    Distribution Lists: similarly to bulk messaging, current MMS specifications do not support large distribution lists so that a large number of recipients receive an MMS, especially when Value Added Service Provider (VASP) applications are addressed. Currently, most vendors allow large distribution lists to be transferred to the short message service center (SMSC), but it is expected that this configuration will be adjusted and that MMSC vendors will adopt File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to ensure faster transfer of files from one host to another host over the Internet.

    Content Adaptation: multimedia content is not universally compatible with all brands of devices. Therefore, the store and forward server on the recipient's mobile operator network should adapt the content so that it becomes compatible with the recipient's MMS device. When network operators support content adaptation, MMS service is compatible with a larger network of MMS users.

    In conclusion, MMS allows the transmission of text, picture, audio and or video files. If the recipient's handset is not MMS compatible, the MMS will be stored in a special repository provided by the GSM provider. Generally, recent handsets and mobile operator network support MMS