• Call Us: 0800 954 5305
  • Login

SMS Glossary

Message Body

« Back to Glossary Index

message bodyThe message body is the content of the SMS message. It is just one part of an SMS message. The other two parts are a destination number and a reply number (or text label). The standard size of a message body is 160 characters in the GSM character set. When more than the standard amount of characters is used, messages can be linked together into one long message of up to 456 characters.


In NetMessenger, you will see a character count just below the “Message text” box where you type in the message. This lets you know how many characters are in your message, and how many credits it will take to send the message. Anything over 160 characters will cost additional credits.


It’s important to note that most of the characters we use every day, like letters and numbers, count as one character. They are part of the standard GSM defined set.  But some characters are not in this standard set, but only included in the GSM Extended Set. If you use them they will count as two characters. The reason is these characters require extra bits when encoded for the network.


Some of these extended characters are: ^, {, }, [, ], and ~. Note that these characters will be sent and appear correctly to recipients. The only difference is that they count as two characters instead of one. So, you are free to use them in messages, just remember a 🙂 smiley face counts as two characters, but a :] counts as three.


The origin of the 160-character limit dates back to 1985. A member of the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMC) program, Friedhelm Hillebrand, wanted to define an engineering standard for text messaging. At the time, messages were used in car phones, as the mobile phones wouldn’t become popular until the 1990s.


Hillebrand sat down at his typewriter and spent hours typing out random sentences. Later he went and counted how long the sentences were. On average, they ran about 160 characters, including spaces. Based on his efforts, the GSMC adopted the 160-character standard that we still use today.


Here is a knowledgebase article on the GSM Character Set.

« Back to Glossary Index