It’s a common misconception among Americans that they can only send SMS text messages to people who have the same cellular service provider. In other words, many of us think that if we’ve got a Sprint phone, we can only text our friends who are also on Sprint.
Not true! While this was the case for a long time, the American carriers (a.k.a. the cell phone companies) got together and sorted their differences out a few years ago. Imagine how much less valuable the Internet would be if people could only send email to folks who had the same ISP, and you’ll get a glimpse of why this is such a big deal for SMS.
In early 2002, the top five U.S. carriers all allowed their customers to exchange SMS messages with one another. Since then, nearly every carrier has worked out a way to send and receive SMS messages with every other carrier. This is what the cell phone companies call “SMS interoperability.” For ordinary users, it means that SMS text messaging just works. To send a message from your mobile phone to someone else’s, all you need to know is the recipient’s cell phone number.
Unfortunately, these companies never made a big deal about the change, so lots of Americans remained in the dark. It might just have been the first (and only) time when the cellular industry didn’t advertise enough. Go figure!
By the way, if you find that you can’t send an SMS message to someone because of their carrier, let me know — I’d love to hear of any examples where this is not working right!