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Are SMS and MMS sent via a mobile phone stored on telecommunication service providers' servers before passing them to the recipient?

Does it depend on the country or does every network service provider have the resources to do something like this?

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To answer the question yourself, turn off your cell phone and have a friend send you a SMS. Turn on your phone 20 minutes later. Will the SMS be delivered or lost? Could it therefore possibly be that the service provider does not store it on the server before delivery? –  Damon May 9 at 22:20
Yes, i could receive. what i know is, all Network service providers storing the sms for a limited time. lets say 4 hours. if the receiver phone is off for more than this time then it may not be delivered. and to store every sms in a country it will take a large resource and cost will be very high for servers. –  fireclaw48 May 10 at 12:15
4 hours is unrealistic. I'm one of the admittedly few people who actually use their cell phone as phone (that is, no games and no Facebook shit), and who only turn it on when it is actually needed. When someone sends me a SMS (which admittedly happens about once per month only), it usually takes 3-4 days before I receive it. When I'm on holiday, it's 3 weeks. I wouldn't expect anything else, of course it works that way, it has to. That's what you pay for. –  Damon May 10 at 12:20

5 Answers 5

The telecommunications service provider (your cell phone company) has to transmit the SMS and MMS messages to their recipients; so yes, the provider has to store them, however briefly.

Most providers retain messages for varying, not-so-brief, periods of time.

Search [sms carrier retention period].

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Sure, the phone company will store it briefly, but by then, the NSA already has it... –  Cole Johnson May 9 at 17:05
Storing it has nothing to do with whether NSA can get it or not. –  Davor May 10 at 9:05

If a phone is not on the network messages must be stored until they can be delivered, so SMSCs and MMSCs have storage capabilities. SMS and MMS messages can be retained indefinitely on the system or they can be exported to an archive if the carrier chooses. If governments are storing phone call records they are almost certainly retaining SMS and MMS messages.

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I worked for an SMS polling company (the first one, actually - we handled polling for Survivor, season one), and this is technically the best answer here. –  taco May 10 at 17:23

Yes, It does vary from country to country. For example I know that in Portugal text messages are stored on the provider for up to 7 years and only with a warrant can one access that information.

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It is a bit old (year 2005), but in [PDF] Exploiting Open Functionality in SMS-Capable Cellular some experiments about this were presented.

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