What Is MMS?

By Jesse Sears

MMS stands for "multimedia messaging service" and allows cell-phone users to send picture, video, audio or other data over wireless carriers' data spectrum, between the same or different carriers. Most modern cell phones support the sending and receiving of MMS messages, but different operating systems and carrier protocols mean MMS messages sometimes have trouble finding their intended recipient intact.

History of MMS

MMS messages grew out of the SMS (Short Message Service) standard developed from the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM). The GSM began to see a huge jump in the use of SMS messages and saw the potential goldmine MMS messages could be.

MMS Technology

MMS messages are sent from the user to the cell-phone carrier's central servers, where they are stored before being passed on to their end user. When the MMS message is being sent from one carrier to another, especially between the GSM and Code Division Multiple Access data standards, problems in delivery can often occur.

MMS Cost Controversy

Just like text (SMS) messages, MMS messages cost the wireless carriers far less than they charge consumers for the service. MMS messages take up only a tiny fraction of the wireless spectrum capacity of a voice call, yet users pay between $10 and $20 per month for the privilege of sending unlimited MMS and SMS messages.

MMS and iPhones

Apple has received sharp criticism since the debut of the original iPhone by refusing to allow users to send MMS messages. The iPhone has much more advanced capabilities than other handsets on the market that are able to send and receive MMS messages, leaving buyers and industry experts puzzled about why Apple has refused to enable the MMS technology.

MMS on its Way Out?

Now that nearly every new phone on the market carries at least some form of data connectivity, users are beginning to find workarounds for paying for each MMS message or paying for an all-you-can-send plan. Email, free with its free multimedia attachments, may soon replace large-scale use of MMS as nearly every handset on the market now has some email capability.