South Africa: Free SMS messages filtered by mobile operators says FSMS founder


FSMS recently blamed mobile networks for “trying to filter their messages” but operators said that this is definitely not the case. Free SMS service FSMS was launched in June 2010. The initiative allows users to send and reply to SMSs entirely free of charge explained founder Daniel Schwartzkopff.

“There are absolutely no restrictions on the service, provided you do not abuse it by spamming others or performing otherwise illegal or unethical tasks,” Schwartzkopff said at the time. The company received a boost recently through the investment firm World of Avatar’s acquisition of 50% of the company.

On the back of this investment, FSMS also launched a new Call Service with which subscribers can call international destinations and only pay local cellular rates. According to FSMS they are targeted by mobile operators which are trying to filter out their messages.

“Hi FSMSers, the reason we occasionally have delays and are using the +447 sender ID at the moment is because the networks are trying to filter our messages and we have to keep finding new ways to get the SMSes to go through,” FSMS told their subscribers.

Schwartzkopff told MyBroadband that some of the larger providers (Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and 8ta) have been implementing filters on SMSs which contain their tags (free SMS sent from - and those that include custom sender IDs, which allow users to have the SMSes appear to be from their own mobile numbers.

“We have obviously become large enough to be noticed and they are taking action before we begin to impact on their profits. It comes at a very inopportune time as we are starting our major promotion on 5FM from Monday but we have managed to find some ways to work around the issue and continue to provide our free service to the public,” said Schwartzkopff.

Vodacom’s Executive Head of Corporate Communications of Nomsa Thusi explained that Vodacom does not target specific organisations when it comes to SMS filtering, but does filter SMS messages which may harm their systems.

“We filter Spoof/Spam and Alpha numerical SMS messages that come from foreign networks with an invalid source address since they are all seen as a risk to our systems and to our customers,” said Thusi. He could not confirm if FSMS forms part of the ‘filtered’ group, but added that if they use carriers or service providers with invalid source addresses then they will be affected.

MTN spokesperson Nataska Basson said that they definitely do not block or filter FSMS’s messages, and in fact tested their system after being asked for comment to confirm that FSMS messages are successfully delivered on their network.

Telkom/8ta also said that they definitely don’t filter or block SMS text messages from FSMS. Cell C could not immediately comment as to whether they are filtering out, or are trying to filter out, free SMSs from FSMS.