The five-digit system, called a short code service, will be available for use by mobile operators from mid-February and will allow them to offer a range of enhanced text messaging services.
According to the ODTR, new services could include event-driven content such as personal stock information or goal-by-goal football alerts, ringtone downloads, location-based information and gaming. The services will initially be available on the existing SMS system, but are also likely to be used over 2.5G and 3G systems.
"Premium text messaging provides an opportunity for companies to generate new forms of mobile content or application provision in Ireland, offering a rich content and application environment for customers, while improving customer choice," said the ODTR in a statement. "This coupled with the high demand that is evident for these services and their often interactive instant response nature makes them good candidates for allocation of short codes."
The services will be accessible by dialling a five-digit code, which will always start with the number "5". This system is preferred by the ODTR as it makes it easier for consumers to remember the numbers involved and recall that they are using a premium service.
The codes will be consistent across all networks. This means that content providers can promote their five-digit numbers safe in the knowledge that they can be accessed by a consumer regardless of what mobile network that person is using.
Initially, 4,100 codes will be offered by the ODTR with an additional 4,900 being made available as the original codes are fully consumed. The ODTR said that in the interest of fairness, all codes will be allocated on a lottery basis because there is likely to be competition for easily remembered numbers such as 55555 or 51111.
The ODTR also said that since many of the services will be in the premium rate range, it is reserving a "special" category for adult-type services with them always starting with "59". According to a spokesperson for the ODTR, this is to highlight the fact that these kinds of services, at an estimated EUR1 and above, are likely to be more expensive compared to other SMS services.
There are five pricing ranges for the enhanced text messages - Free Text, Standard (up to EUR0.16), Basic Premium Rate (up to EUR0.80), High Premium Rate (EUR0.80 and above) and Adult (variable price).
The ODTR's move has been welcomed by Eamon Hession, managing director of Puca, which specialises in SMS marketing services. "The most important thing is that the ODTR has realised that it's essential that premium rate SMS services are introduced as quickly as possible," he told ElectricNews.Net. Hession said that he expected the new five digit services to be on offer by the end of February or early March.
Hession also welcomed the decision by the ODTR to increase the number of short code allocations available to service providers. Originally, this had been fixed at one, but has now been increased to five codes in any category. "It isn't ideal, but it is better than just one which would have had implications for on-going messaging and interactive gaming," commented Hession.