How can we help?
Table of Contents
< All Topics

SMS characters sets and limits

GSM 03.38 encoding

Single text messages are limited to 160 characters, including spaces. However, to get around this restriction, messages can be linked together (up to 3 parts) to form one long message. To do this, each concatenated text message is limited to 153 characters rather than 160 due to the need for user-data header (UDH) information. This applies only to messages that contain the standard GSM 03.38 character set. Mobile phones use UDH information to enable them to link long messages together so that they appear as a single SMS message in the recipient’s in-boxes.
Number of SMSs Total number of characters in the linked message
1 160
2 309
3 459
The standard SMS mobile-phone character set is used universally to send text messages. You can send a longer text message by using only GSM 03.38 characters. The standard character set allows up to 160 characters, and includes the Latin alphabet and the most common accented forms, certain special characters, and the Greek alphabet. It includes the following characters:  
@ Δ SP 0 ¡ P ¿ p
£ _ ! 1 A Q a q
$ Φ  “ 2 B R b r
¥ Γ # 3 C S c s
è Λ ¤ 4 D T d t
é Ω % 5 E U e u
ù Π & 6 F V f v
ì Ψ 7 G W g w
ò Σ ( 8 H X h x
Ç Θ ) 9 I Y i y
LF Ξ * : J Z j z
Ø ESC + K Ä k ä
ø Æ < L Ö l ö
Note: An escape character always precedes the characters { } \ ~ [ ] | ^ €, which therefore takes two characters to send.


When using non-GSM 03.38 characters, SMS transmits the message as a Unicode message. Unicode character support also provides the capability to send a message in Arabic, Japanese, Russian, Chinese and other alphabets. Using Unicode restricts messages to a maximum of 70 characters per SMS. You can, however, send longer text messages, by splitting them into two or at the most three separate text messages. The table below gives the maximum lengths of two or more parts of a concatenated Unicode text messages.
Number of SMSs  Total number of characters in the linked message
1 70
2 134
3 201