MMS Overview

About Multimedia Messaging Service

MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) is an extension of the SMS standard. It is a rich multimedia messaging technology which provides audio, video, images and thousands of characters of text within a single message.

Content and messages sent via MMS are delivered to and opened within a recipient’s inbox in the same familiar way as SMS. There is no software to download or application to launch, and end users can reply to an MMS with an SMS, and vice-versa via the same short or code.

Each message is a multimedia presentation. Because MMS uses the cellular network for delivery, a data connection isn’t needed. A majority of U.S. subscription contracts include MMS in an unlimited messaging plan. These combined characteristics make it a simple and convenient method of sending and receiving rich content.

From a carrier or aggregator perspective, MMS is more complex to support and requires greater bandwidth. Media format types and message size limitations vary by carrier and mobile device capabilities. As a result, it costs more to send an MMS than an SMS.

Every mobile phone is pre-configured with settings for how the phone sends and receives MMS messages. For example, an MMS video message that runs in .mp4 format will not open on many Blackberry phones, which only run .3gp video files. Transcoding services optimize the delivery of MMS. These services help solve the technical issues associated with handsets and MMSCs (carrier processing centers) as well as carrier message size limitations. Transcoding services are available on both A2P and P2P routes with different feature sets, and varying costs.

MMS message delivery takes longer than SMS due to both the mms file size, and the network handling complexities. Expect an auto response to typically take between eight and thirty seconds to return an MMS once the keyword has been received by the application.

Quick Facts

There are two important standards that define MMS technology, one published by the 3GPP (3GPP TS 23.140), and the other a series of MMS specifications published by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA). These two standard bodies cooperate to define the MMS protocols.

An MMS message is:

  • A multimedia presentation in a single entry*
  • Network independent
  • A messaging application that does not require a data plan
  • Supported by MMS-compatible feature phones, smart phones and tablets**

*Some mobile devices will store rich media separate from text.

**MMS Service may not be compatible with all handsets

Key Markets

Key vertical markets with significant growth potential for MMS include:

  1. Retail (brands and agencies)
  2. Social networking and portals
  3. Finance
  4. Insurance
  5. Real Estate
  6. Medical (pharmacy)
  7. Entertainment
  8. Mapping Services
  9. Travel and hospitality

Implementing MMS

There are a few key factors to consider before getting started with MMS. The following requirements are unique to Multimedia Messaging Systems:

  1. Certification: a 16-week process neither precluded by nor included within SMS certification
  2. Fees: Separate from SMS
  3. System Logic: “device discovery” message logic required in MMS systems
  4. Transcoding: due to the varied capabilities of different mobile devices
  5. API: MM4 and/or HTTP specifications
  • Carriers: Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T
  • Rates: MMS is an upgrade service to SMS, with an independent setup and monthly service fee, MMS-specific message rates and carrier surcharge rates.
  • Plans: When using a short code for MMS delivery, an SMS plan is needed in most cases to support an MMS program, as the carriers require SMS opt-in and opt-out messages as well as a recipient’s handset discovery message flow that checks for compatibility prior to sending MMS content.
  • A2P Route: Available via shared short code.
  • P2P Route: Available via US-Registered long code (a premium product with a higher monthly lease rate). Use cases are limited to non-marketing, non-bulk, unique, personalized messages per send.
  • MMS Protocols: HTTP
  • DLR: Supported
  • Incoming Keyword Matching: Supported

General MMS Tips

  • For video avoid complex or gradated backgrounds
  • For video, avoid background noise
  • Keep videos under 40s in length
  • Keep text copy enticing and brief despite longer character capacity

Input File Formats

Content TypeFile Format
  • Plain Text Charsets Available: UTF-8, US-ASCII

Carrier MMS File Size Limitations

Short Code

All carriers listed below support both MMS-MT and MMS-MO delivery direction.

CarrierSubject Characters LimitDLR Lists Device TypeMax File Size Supported
Verizon Wireless83Yes1.2 MB
AT&T128No1 MB
Sprint37Yes2 MB
T-Mobile40No3 MB

*Sprint does not transcode MMS MOs. However, devices often perform transcoding on their own prior to sending MMS in order to reduce media sizes. Sprint does transcode MMS MTs, but skips transcoding for iPhone and newer Android devices.

Subject Characters Limit

The “Subject” referred to in this field is the subject, header, title or topic of the message. Thus, this refers not to the characters limit of the message body, but of the characters limit for the “subject.”

DLR Lists Device Type

In the table above, the Delivery Receipts of the carriers listed as “yes” for this value will return end-user handset information such as device manufacturer and model within their DLR.

This page was last updated 1520280077837