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Breaking news: T-Mobile drops double opt-in for SMS

T-Mobile USA Inc., the nation's third-largest wireless carrier, has dropped its requirement for double opt-in for recurring Standard Rate commercial text messages sent to its subscribers.

The German-owned company was the last holdout from among the five major carriers including AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint Nextel and Alltel to require double opt-in. The double opt-in change was one among many that T-Mobile USA introduced.

"Though we designed our systems to handle this and other unique requirements of carriers, any step by a major carrier towards ecosystem cooperation is good news for everyone," said Tim Miller, CEO of Sumotext, a mobile marketing firm in Little Rock, AR.

Under T-Mobile USA's old rule, end users who wanted to opt in to a Standard Rate program by texting a keyword to a common short code were required to reply YES to the initial welcome message.

Based in Bellevue, WA, T-Mobile USA is the U.S. arm of Deutsche Telekom AG's mobile communications business, and a wholly owned subsidiary of T-Mobile International.

Relaxing the double opt-in requirement is one of the few pieces of good news from carriers in recent weeks after rival Verizon Wireless said it delayed implementing a rate hike to text messages to its subscribers (see story). Pressure from the industry forced Verizon Wireless to backtrack.

Opened market
The T-Mobile decision was reflected in an email that Amdocs-owned SMS aggregator OpenMarket sent earlier today to its customers. Here's what the email had to say about the changes to the T-Mobile USA playbook:

Dear OpenMarket Customer:

Please be aware that T-Mobile USA has recently released an updated version of its T-Mobile Content Gateway Playbook that is effective immediately. This set of revisions reflects an effort by T-Mobile to adopt a more industry standard approach with some of the existing Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) guidelines. We encourage you to review the entire T-Mobile Playbook to stay informed of the latest rules for program engagement.

One of the most notable changes reflected in the newest Playbook is a deviation from the "Other Charges May Apply" disclosure to the more universal "Standard Messaging Charges Apply" disclosure (Section 5.9). Other significant changes include the elimination of the double opt-in requirement for recurring standard rate programs (Section 5.10) and an update to the Interactive TV policy (Section 5.8). In addition, programs must comply with the new Customer Service guidelines (Section 5.6).

These new changes take effect immediately and apply to all programs currently under review or certification with T-Mobile. If you have any questions, please contact your OpenMarket Account Manager.

Sincerely,

OpenMarket

T-Mobile USA accounts for more than 32 million subscribers out of the 127 million within the mobile communication segments of the Deutsche Telekom group. The company uses the GSM technology platform.

Team mobile
The T-Mobile USA changes come soon after the company tapped AOL's Platform-A for a billion-impression Web advertising campaign during a two-day period, Nov. 10 and 11 (see story).

Sumotext's Mr. Miller was quite elated with the latest SMS development at T-Mobile, an indication of the carrier's willingness to work with key components of the mobile marketing industry.

"For marketers, this helps in a bunch of ways," Mr. Miller said. "Mainly, it will be easier to communicate consistent calls to action and opt-in requirements to end-users.

"For application providers, it means much simpler application program briefs to file," he said. "This should translate into quicker approvals of new short code programs.

"Let's face it: The six to 10 weeks we've seen lately to get new short code programs approved has been ridiculous.

"Maybe this will free up some resources to actually start auditing SMTP servers and enforcing many of good short code program rules that still exist."