Open Source SMS/WAP, Mobile Marketing On Your Terms

I’ve always been a fan of open source software, and anything protected under the GPL license. For quite some time now, I’ve been experimenting with a freely available open source SMS and WAP gateway called Kannel.

For those who don’t know what open source means;Â It’s a type of software distribution in which the source code for the software itself is completely free to obtain, and open for any third party to manipulate into anything they want to create with the code. In this case, SMS and WAP functionality for your mobile marketing campaigns.

Kannel is a project that was created back in 1999, and to this day is still the only fully open source SMS and WAP gateway available (someone please correct me if I’m wrong…). The project provides open source components that one can use to build a fully operational WAP infrastructure, as well as an SMS gateway for GSM networks. In their own words, “Kannel was created to make SMS/WAP components freely available to everyone so that the market potential for WAP services, both from wireless operators and specialized service providers, will be realized as efficiently as possible.”

For SMS functionality, Kannel is geared to facilitate the linking of HTTP-based services to various SMS centers using obscure protocols. Similarly, it facilitates WAP communications in a less complex manner to make WAP services more accessible to everyone. Unlike some marketer’s claims, WAP doesn’t actually bring the existing content of the Internet directly to the mobile phone. There’s too many technical and other problems for this to ever work properly. The main problem is that Internet content is mainly in the form of PHP, ASP, HTML, etc. and they’re written in such a way as to require fast connections, fast processors, large memories, big screens, audio output, and may require fairly efficient input mechanisms. That’s OK, since they hopefully work better for traditional computers and networks that way. However, most mobile phones have very slow processors, very little memory, intermittent bandwidth, little screens and extremely awkward input mechanisms. Most existing web pages simply won’t work on them.

The Kannel WAP gateway talks to the phone using the WAP protocol stack, and translates the requests it receives to normal HTTP.

I realize that for most, compiling your own SMS/WAP gateway can be a daunting task, and most of the time simply not worth it, if you want to outsource this I recommend mobileStorm, Movo Mobile, or Golive Mobile. But for some, it’s worth taking the time to play around with for a bit to see if it will facilitate the SMS or WAP campaign your wanting. With the rising cost of WAP marketing, and the pay-per-message model of most SMS providers, I think it’s worth a look. If configured properly, any GSM-based phone can send and receive a large amount of SMS data within reason. If your campaign requires small to moderate amounts of sending and receiving, Kannel might be the perfect solution for you.