The first action plan mentions for the first time the Technical Specification 03.40 "Technical Realisation of the Short Message Service". The first and very rudimentary draft of the technical specification was completed in November 1987.

The work on the draft specification continued in the following few years, where Kevin Holley of Cellnet (now Telefónica O2 UK) played a leading role.

Finn Trosby of Telenor chaired the draft group through its first 3 years, in which the design of SMS was established.

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SMS, as used on modern devices, originated from radio telegraphy in radio memo pagers that used standardized phone protocols.

These were defined in 1985 as part of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) series of standards.

According to Matti Makkonen, the inventor of SMS text messages, Nokia 2010, which was released in January 1994, was the first mobile phone to support composing SMSes easily.

One factor in the slow takeup of SMS was that operators were slow to set up charging systems, especially for prepaid subscribers, and eliminate billing fraud which was possible by changing SMSC settings on individual handsets to use the SMSCs of other operators.

The protocols allowed users to send and receive messages of up to 160 alpha-numeric characters to and from GSM mobiles.

Although most SMS messages are mobile-to-mobile text messages, support for the service has expanded to include other mobile technologies, such as ANSI CDMA networks and Digital AMPS.A new network element required was a specialized short message service centre, and enhancements were required to the radio capacity and network transport infrastructure to accommodate growing SMS traffic.The technical development of SMS was a multinational collaboration supporting the framework of standards bodies.Besides the completion of the main specification GSM 03.40, the detailed protocol specifications on the system interfaces also needed to be completed.CAMEL allows the gsm SCP to block the submission (MO) or delivery (MT) of Short Messages, route messages to destinations other than that specified by the user, and perform real-time billing for the use of the service.The last three words transformed SMS into something much more useful than the prevailing messaging paging that some in GSM might have had in mind.