Computers store letters and other characters by assigning a number to each one, therefore they essentially only process numbers. Prior to the invention of unicode, there were several hundred different systems whose purpose was to encode and assign these numbers. However, problems arose as no single encoding could contain sufficient characters for all the languages in use today. The European Union alone, for instance, required several different encodings in order to include all of its languages. Even single languages such as English required several encodings as no encoding existed for every character, punctuation and technical symbol.

Furthermore, individual encoding systems frequently conflict with one another, further justifying the need for a single unifying encoding system. Without this, two encodings may use the same number for two different characters, or similarly, use two different numbers for the same character. This can cause issues as it means any given computer requires the ability to support several different encodings; however whenever data is passed amongst different encodings it runs the risk of corruption. These issues are of course very problematic when sending SMS messages between handsets which use different encoding systems. International SMS marketing, and bulk SMS delivery was problematic before the introduction of a universal code.

However, in 1988 this all changed with the creation of Unicode, which provides a unique number for every character regardless of the platform, program or language. Developed in conjunction with the Universal Character Set standard, the most recent version of Unicode consists of a repertoire of over 110,000 characters covering 100 scripts and multiple symbol sets.

The Unicode Standard has been utilised by industry leaders such as HP, IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Sun, Sybase, Oracle, Unisys, JustSystems and many others. A large number of modern standards such as Java, XML, WML and LDAP require Unicode. Unicode is supported by a large number of operating systems, every modern browser and a range of other products. The development of the Unicode Standard and the wide availability of tools supporting it, are among the most significant software technology trends to have recently occurred.

When sending bulk SMS messages to a large number of individuals, it is important to ensure that your SMS provider can support Unicode, should you require it. If your SMS recipients are international, Unicode will be vital to your business.