1 PREPAID SHORT MESSAGING
This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/222,861, filedAug. 18,2008 now U.S. Pat. No. 7,853, 511, entitled “Prepaid Short Messaging,” which in turn is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/790,979, filed Feb. 23, 2001, entitled “Prepaid Short Messaging,” now U.S. Pat. No. 7,428,510, which in turn claims priority from U.S. Provisional PatentApplication 60/185,053 to Titus et al., filed Feb. 25, 2000, entitled “Prepaid Messaging”, the entirety of all of which are expressly incorporated herein by reference.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates generally to short messaging systems. More particularly, it relates to prepaid billing of short message services.
2. Background of Related Art
Prepaid voice services exist. In a prepaid voice scenario, as part of the establishment of a telephone call, a service queries a database for a particular subscriber to determine if there is at least a given amount of funds available to pay for a call about to be made. In such a prepaid voice scenario, the ultimate cost of the desired telephone call is not known at that time, because the caller may not know the exact length of time that they would like to speak. Thus, a ‘minimum’ cost of the telephone call given the location of the called party (e.g., for a 3 minute call) may be determined, and compared to the remaining balance in the caller’s service account. If there is suflicient money remaining to pay for at least the minimum cost of the telephone call (e.g., to pay for a minimum 3 minute call), then the call is allowed to go through and be established.
In the conventional prepaid voice system, when the subscriber’s account has been exhausted or nearly exhausted, the subscriber is initially warned about the dwindling account balance. Ultimately, if the account balance is not replenished in time, the telephone call will be terminated due to lack of funds.
Conventionally, when a called party does not answer a telephone call, a voice message may be left in a voice mailbox. However, since the telephone call was not answered, there typically is no tarifling or cost applied to the subscriber’s account. While this may be advantageous to the subscriber, the wireless carrier service does not recover costs with respect to that voice message.
Nevertheless, while prepayment for voice telephone calls has been accomplished, existing technologies have not applied the concepts of pre-payment to the world of short messaging (e.g., Internet messaging delivery services) as have prepaid wireless voice & calling cards. The lack of pre-payment service for messaging increases the possibility for fraudulent billing with respect to payment collections, particularly with respect to the high demand for wireless information services.
There is a need for an architecture and method for providing prepaid messaging services.
In accordance with the principles of the present invention, a method and apparatus for handling a prepaid messaging service comprises tarifling a short message before transmission. An account database is queried to determine if an account corresponding to an addressed party of the short
message has suflicient funds to pay for transmission of the short message. If the account has suflicient funds, the short message is transmitted.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following description with reference to the drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 shows an exemplary prepaid SMSC mobile originated mobile chat scenario in an implementation including a prepaid messaging system controller (SMSC) mobile originated (MO) chat, in accordance with the principles of the present invention.
FIG. 2 shows a block diagram of exemplary modules in a prepaid messaging system providing a prepaid messaging service, in accordance with the principles of the present invention.
FIG. 3 shows an exemplary process of implementing prepaid messaging services, in accordance with the principles of the present invention.
FIG. 4 shows the step of performing message tarifling shown in FIG. 3 in more detail.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS
The present invention provides a prepaid messaging solution whichuses open networking standards (e.g., TCP/IP) and which supports pre-payment of enhanced Internet messaging services. The disclosed prepaid architectures and methods accurately determine if a subscriber has suflicient account balance to deliver a complete short message, prior to delivery of the message. The short message may be prevented from being delivered (either at the source end or at the destination end) if insufficient funds are in the subscriber’s account.
Short messaging architectures are significantly different from mere telephone systems, and thus prepaid short messaging is quite different from prepaid voice telephone calls. Accordingly, the implementation of prepaid accounting for short messaging encounters different issues than does prepaid accounting for voice telephone calls.
For instance, voice telephone calls are conventionally billed or tariffed based on a length of the telephone call. However, such billing or tarifling is not useable for short message cost recovery because most short messages can be transmitted in a blink of an eye, or at the most just a few seconds. Thus, prepaid voice telephone techniques and apparatus provide no workable solution to tariffing for short messages.
In a short messaging system, the length of the short message is known at the time of transmission (unlike voice telephone calls which are indefinite in nature, and must be ‘cut off” when account balances dwindle). For instance, the approximate total number of ASCII type characters will be known, or the approximate total size of a transferred file may be known. Thus, in accordance with the principles of the present invention, short messages may be tariffed based on the substance of the short message being transferred.
This is significantly different from that encountered in conventional prepaid voice telephone systems, where the costing of a particular voice telephone call can be finalized only after completion of the voice telephone call. It is only after someone in the voice telephone call has hung up that the final length of the telephone call (and thus the final total cost of the telephone call) can be known. Thus, either prepaid voice telephone call accounts run the risk of being overdrawn