SMS Limit: Make the Most of Your Messages

Martina Ivanović

Have you ever experienced SMS limits first-hand? Maybe your friend sent you a long, detailed text message explaining a funny or exciting scenario they found themselves in. However, what you ended up receiving was a hard-to-follow story broken up into two or three messages.

The limits of SMS messages hold barriers to communication – for us, our family or friends, and for businesses that want to communicate with customers.

Although SMS is one of the most cost-effective channels with the widest reach – businesses struggle to share all the information customers need in a neatly packaged message. Instead, they need to be strategic with the words and detail they choose to include – risking the chance of not providing customers with enough information or answers to their questions.

Here we highlight exactly what the limit for SMS messages is, best practices for your business, and how to increase your limit so you can connect with customers in a fast, useful, and economical way.

What is the limit for SMS messages?

The average SMS limit for GSM-7 messages is 160 characters. Any messages that contain more than 160 characters will be split into segments of 153 characters. This means that a 180-character message will be sent as one 153-character message followed by a 27-character message.

And although most mobile phones today combine these separate messages into one when they reach their destination (i.e. your customers will see one long message rather than several ones) – you will be charged for each separate message of 153 characters.

If you communicate with customers in a different language that requires characters outside of GSM-7, you’ll experience different restrictions. The limit for UCS-2 characters is 70 – and any messages that exceed this limit will be split into 67-character segments. For example, a message containing 80 UCS-2 characters will be sent as one 67-character message followed by a 13-character message.

Best practices to navigate SMS limits

If you’re looking to connect with your customers in a trusted and reliable way, SMS might be the best option. Luckily, there are ways to overcome these limits and restrictions so you can carry on with business as usual. Here’s how:

Keep messages up to 160 characters

The simplest way to experience high ROI on SMS messages is to stay within the limit. Going over the limit will result in higher charges, questionable deliverability, and a potentially fragmented customer experience.

Staying within the SMS message limits will also ensure you include only relevant content for your customers – leaving out unnecessary words, phrases, and details. This will simplify your communication and improve customer satisfaction.

Pro tip: Refer to common use cases to leverage SMS as a powerful customer communication channel while staying within the 160-character limit.

Turn UCS characters into GSM characters

If you normally communicate with customers in a language that requires UCS characters, try transforming them into GSM characters. This will increase your message limit so you can send more than 70 characters in one message.

Our National Language Shift is a good example of an encoding technology that allows an SMS containing 16-bit Unicode to be delivered as GSM text while deducting only five characters from the maximum SMS length. This way, you get 155 characters instead of the usual 70 characters.

Find a reliable SMS provider

Regardless of the number or type of characters you choose to include in your messages, it’s important to find a trusted, reliable SMS provider.

Having a provider that is limited in data centers and connectivity can affect your deliverability rates, message quality, and investment.

If you operate on a global scale, finding a global SMS provider can help ensure:

  • your messages are delivered on time
  • you stay within local rules and regulations
  • you maintain high uptime

It’s also beneficial to find a provider with a team of consultants that can share best practices for overcoming limitations, increasing ROI, and setting up successful campaigns.

SMS success stories

Here’s how brands around the world used our global communications platform to set up successful SMS communication with their customers:

  • LANKABANGLA experienced 90% deliverability
  • APPZONE achieved 98% uptime
  • YOUSIGN increased one-time PIN delivery rates via SMS to over 97%

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