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EPC GSM IMS / VoLTE LTE Mobile Networks RFCs & Standards

The Surprisingly Complicated world of MO SMS in IMS/VoLTE

Short messaging can be anything but simple…

Since the beginning of time, SIP has used the 2xx responses to confirm all went OK.

If you thought sending an SMS in a VoLTE/IMS network would see a 2xx OK response and then that’s the end of it, you’d be wrong.

So let’s take a look into sending SMS over VoLTE/IMS networks!

So our story starts with the Subscriber sending an SMS, which generate a SIP MESSAGE.

The Content-Type of this SIP MESSAGE is set to application/vnd.3gpp.sms rather than Text, and that’s because SMS over IMS uses the Short Message Transfer Protocol (SM-TP) inherited from GSM.

The Short Message Transfer Protocol (SM-TP) (Not related to Simple Message Transfer Protocol used in Email clients) is made up of Transfer Protocol Data Units (TPDU) that contain our message information, even though we have the Destination in our SIP headers, it’s again defined in the SM-TP body.

At first this may seem like a bit of duplication, but this allows older SMS Switching Centers (SMSc) to add support for IMS networks without any major changes, just what the SM-TP payload is wrapped up in changes.

SIP MESSAGE Request Body encoded in SM-TP

So back to our SIP MESSAGE request, typed out by the Subscriber, the UE sends this a SIP MESSAGE onto our IMS Network.

The IMS network follows it’s IFCs and routing rules, and makes it to the termination points for SMS traffic – the SMSc.

The SMSc sends back either a 200 OK or a 202 Accepted, and you’d think that’s the end of it, but no.

Our Subscriber still sees “Sending” on the screen, and the SMS is not shown as sent yet.

Instead, when the SMS has been delivered or buffered, relayed, etc, the SMSc generates a new SIP request, (as in new Call-ID / Dialog) with the request type MESSAGE, addressed to the Subscriber.

The payload of this request is another application/vnd.3gpp.sms encoded request body, again, containing SM-TP encoded data.

When the UE receives this, it will then consider the message delivered.

SM-TP encoded Delivery Report

Of course things change slightly when delivery reports are enabled, but that’s another story!

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