In May Telstra rolled out its SMS Over Wi-Fi system. It was a long time coming and allowed Australians in mobile black spots to send and receive texts via Wi-Fi. But as it turns out, the service is limited to texts only – it can’t send any kind of MMS.
Multimedia Messaging Services, or MMS, is a blanket term used to describe messages that include more than just text. If you text an image or video to someone, that’s MMS. Many phones will also convert texts longer than 160 characters to MMS before sending.
Currently, Telstra does not support the sending of images, videos or long texts through its SMS Over Wi-Fi service. If you try to send an MMS on a Wi-Fi connection it will not send until your device can access mobile coverage again.
A source recently brought this to Gizmodo Australia’s attention. After testing this ourselves and reaching out to Telstra, the telco has now confirmed MMS is not currently compatible with SMS Over Wi-Fi.
“MMS is a separate service and works differently to SMS,” a Telstra spokesperson said in an email to Gizmodo Australia.
“We are currently working with device vendors to enable it, however the activation date is still to be finalised.”
Telstra’s website also discloses its intentions to add the service in the future.
Why MMS Over Wi-Fi Matters
This lack of functionality may not seem like a big deal; some might argue that sending images or videos isn’t that important.
But it could be problematic when it comes to emergency situations. While speaking to impacted rural Australians in May, we discovered how important SMS Over Wi-Fi is not only for convenience, but also for safety.
Before Telstra rolled out SMS Over Wi-Fi, some Australians missed out on evacuation texts during the recent catastrophic bushfires. Others were not able to install the COVIDSafe app due to the mandatory two-factor-authentication text.
The lack of MMS functionality on this service could prevent people from sending important images or maps during an emergency situation. It could also prevent vital texts from being sent if they exceed the character limit and convert to MMS.
While shorter texts could be a solution to this latter issue, this would also be dependent on users being aware of the conversion of longer texts from SMS to MMS.
While Telstra has confirmed that MMS Over Wi-Fi is in the works, we don’t know when the service will be available.