If you read Daniel Scuka’s guest viewpoint late last week, you’ll know the key difference between Japan and Europe – SMS mail pricing. While his opinion is his own, we noted this spectacular example of what can happen when mail (SMS or SMTP) is cheap – like it is in Japan. Ironically, this story comes not from an advanced, Western European market like Germany, France, or the UK, but from the Czech Republic – where SMS messages cost as little as 0.03 euro each and local municipal authorities are exploiting the ubiquity of cellular to bring eGovernment services to the masses.
The Czech Republic is a small country of approximately 78,000 km2 and 10 million inhabitants. It is one of three countries in the Eastern European region where mobile penetration has surpassed fixed penetration. SMS messaging is a popular phenomenon with 5 billion messages sent per year over three mobile networks, operating in the Czech Republic. Sending a text message is no longer limited to teenagers, but considerably used also by the elderly, needing to be in contact with their family relatives.
Service offerings vary from supplier to supplier. Some third party suppliers connect directly to one or two mobile operators, rather than using the telecom operator. In other cases, aggregation of municipal traffic with business SMS traffic has reduced the cost of each text message to €0,03. Tiny municipalities or ad-hoc event organisers without Internet connection can also generate messages through a PC or laptop connected to a mobile phone. All sent messages are archived in order to track history of communication with individual citizens.