International MMS: A Case Study of Failure

It’s a strange situation: Most mobile operators today would like to retain control over the application layer and rollout new services themselves instead of letting Internet economics do the job. In practice however, they do not spend a lot of effort to making even the few advanced services they have universally usable. MMS is a prime example as I had to discover recently.

Situation 1: I am in France, I have a French SIM card and wanted to send an MMS to a prepaid subscriber of another French operator, Bouygues. Instead of receiving the MMS, only a text message arrives at the other end with a web link. The reason is that the other end did not have a GPRS subscription. 5 years after the introduction of MMS!? It leaves me puzzled.

Situation 2: O.k. so I can’t send my French friend an MMS but maybe I can send one to a friend in Germany. Message sent, I’ve been charged for it but the MMS never arrived. How nice.

Situation 3: Some days later I was in Spain and repeated the international MMS scenario with a Spanish SIM card. Again, the MMS to a German SIM card was not delivered.

To me it looks like even 5 years after the introduction of MMS, there are still no international agreements in place to forward MMS between operators. Could you imagine eMail not being delivered because the recipient lives in another country? No, probably not. That’s because no international agreements for applications have to be in place to forward eMail. And if there had to be, just imagine how the Internet would look like today and how many people would use it.

Some might say, the difficutlies stem from the fact that telephone numbers are used instead of eMail addresses for MMS messages. True, but international SMS messages which also use telephone numbers work just fine these days. But maybe 5 years is too short a time to make it work? One should not think so.

5 thoughts on “International MMS: A Case Study of Failure”

  1. Well, this is incredible. And I think we won’t see any solution in the future… anyway actually from Wind IT I can reach by MMS some international operators (ok, Wind->Orange CH for example). If you want to test more you can contact me.

  2. Note that many network operators require you to enable the MMS service. Maybe because the operator doesn’t necessarily know whether your phone is MMS-capable. Unlike the SMS service – where all (?) GSM phones have SMS reception/transmission capability.

  3. There are many reasons for the failure :

    1) traditionally the interconnect agreement between operators focused mainly on voice services (SMS was added only 5 or 6 years ago). You need to make enough noise with your provider to ensure that they include other services (MMS, GPRS/3G, …) as part of their IOT.

    2) on some networks, users need to be provisioned before they can receive MMS. This includes having the corrcct settings on the device, provisioned on HLR and of course the MMSC itself.

  4. Hi,
    Just want also to point out that SMSs do not work always even between Germany and USA. So we don’t need to expect that MMS work at all. 🙂

Comments are closed.