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Summary:

Frontier is using Zipwhip’s cloud messaging technology to offer text messaging plans to wireline phones. The service so far is only available to Frontier’s business customers.

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Frontier Communications is selling text message plans. That wouldn’t be a very interesting development if Frontier were a mobile carrier. But Frontier is the landline telephone and broadband provider for rural and small communities in 27 states, and the SMS services it is selling are linked to traditional wireline phones.

Frontier is using a cloud-based messaging technology supplied by Zipwhip to offer SMS services to its business customers. Your typical desktop or cordless phone doesn’t have an SMS client, so it can’t receive an actual text message. But Zipwhip provides a virtual client, which a business can access from any smartphone, tablet or PC.

Basically businesses can turn an asset they already have — a customer-facing phone number — and turn it into a messaging hub. For instance, a pizza parlor can use its delivery number to take orders via SMS as well as voice and it can use the SMS channel to send order confirmations and the ETAs of its drivers. Or a larger business with a customer service call center can field basic requests and problems via text as well as by phone call.

Frontier's virtual SMS client, which can be attached to any business landline number (source: Zipwhip)

Frontier’s virtual SMS client, which can be attached to any business landline number (source: Zipwhip)

We’re starting to see this kind of technology become more widespread as the wireless industry has opened up SMS to new applications. Bandwidth.com last week announced it is bringing SMS and even MMS multimedia messaging to the toll-free 1-800 numbers it administers for companies across the country.

MMS adds an interesting new element to a customer service operation because it gives a caller the opportunity to “show” as well as tell. If you’re contacting your cable company about a downed cable line you can send a picture of the problem.

Frontier, so far, is only selling its landline SMS service to business, but regular consumers can get in on the action as well — if you’re willing to pay to $20 a month. You can sign up for wireline texting directly at Zipwhip’s website