Tamilnadu adopts Tamil SMS solution developed in Sri Lanka

Posted on May 28, 2006  /  23 Comments

In May 2006 Airtel launched a Tamil SMS solution developed by MicroImage, a Sri Lankan software firm, in the State of Tamilnadu.

Tamil and Sinhala SMS are offered in Sri Lanka by Dialog Telekom and Celltel Lanka.

The service is based on a key-entry system enabling a customer to type the SMS as fast as in English and “a one touch function guiding them using the key pad to type Tamil letters”, according to Airtel. “The subscriber needs to download the application free of charge from ‘Airtel Live’ on to their handsets. Those receiving the Tamil SMS also need to download the application in order to read it in Tamil. In the event of the recipient not downloading it, the message is automatically transliterated and the Tamil words can be read using English letters.”

This news may be of interest to our readers who have been engaging in lively debate on standardizing Sinhala for IT applications.


  1. I will first introduce what is Tamil Language is.

    Tamil is the language of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well as Sri Lanka. The Tamil script evolved from the Grantha script of the Southern Indian group of scripts and the Tamil language is one of the oldest recorded languages in southern India. The earliest texts, written in a southern variant of Brahmi, date from just before the 1st century. Later, the Grantha script was employed in the writing of Tamil until the 8th century, when a distinctive script evolved exclusively for Tamil. Borrowings from Sanskrit added some special letters in Tamil which are still used for words borrowed from English.

    Unlike other South Asian scripts, Tamil does not have signs for voiceless aspirated (such as /kh/), voiced (/g/), and voiced aspirated stops (/gh/), which explains the relatively small number of signs in the Tamil script compared to other South Asian scripts. To write some of these sounds, some signs have multiple sound values: Tamil letter ka stands for both /ka/ and /ga. Sometimes these phonetic alterations are conditioned by the sound’s position in the word. Borrowings from Sanskrit also added some special letters to Tamil. There are six characters borrowed from Grantha and have been used to write Sanskrit loanwords. Nowadays they are used to write words with English origin as well. Similar to Sinhala scripts, a Tamil letter carries the inherent vowel of /a/. To change this vowel to another, extra strokes or signs are placed around the letter. Even the absence of the vowel is indicated by a dot written, called virama, above the letter. At present, the Tamil alphabet contains a total of 247 characters.

    The Sinhala and Tamil languages consist of unique characters for most of the consonants known in the English language as well as the vowels. In Sinhala several characters exist for close sound values and sequence of graphical symbols cluster around a character. This is one of the reasons that, as yet, no character allocation tables for these languages have been developed.

    Compared to Sinhala the all Tamil characters are listed in the basic tamil language school books. The Tamil characters are all identified yet some characters has to be re-introduce to write old tamil scripts. This can be easily done by my system.

    The information that I have is if one has to contact a government office in Tamil Nadu by electronic media one will have to use “TAMIL 99” If this is the case they too have the same problem that we have in Sri Lanka with Sinhala.


    Fonts by Platform
    * Windows – Latha
    * Mac OS X (10.4/Tiger) – InaiMathi is supplied with OS X 10.4. For earlier versions, you must install third party fonts


    For all indic langiages we have the problem of data compatibility.

    See Daily mirror FT april 7 , 2003

    Bannari Amman Institute of Technology was given a grant by the state to develop Tamil data base. Simple reason that Text cerated by one software was not compatible with text created by another software. This isolate internet user of Tamil from one another. — This comment was made by Mr R S Kumar Head of Departemnt of Computer Science and Enginerring BIT


    Even of you send a SMS on limited user mobile phones these data will not be compatible in a computer.

    Unless a proper 2 byte system of individual characters are introduced to all indic languages

    Donald Gaminitillake

  2. Dhivehi SMS launched in Male, Maldives

    Dhiraagu Telecom who is the #1 telecommunications provider in Republic of Maldives launched Dhivehi SMS a.k.a Thaana SMS in Maldives yesterday. Official press release

    Thaana is written left to right which was another challenge microimage team successfully overcame. Microimage now offered and launched 3 sub continent languages Sinhala, Tamil and now Dhivehi. The products are launched with mobile giants Airtel, Dialog Telekom, Celltel and Dhiraagu in respective countries. We are in the process of releasing few more languages for indian market which are currently under QA in India with our indian business partners.

    Also we intend to launch the content browser in these countries which will allow HTML localized content browsing using a GPRS/Java capable phone. Our mission is to “Use a mobile phone as an entry level ICT device for digitially divide communities for digital access in their own language”. In realizing this vision we successfully launched messaging and browsing applications for mobiles. The Sinhala/Tamil mobile browser can be downloaded now from dialog telekom’s wap site by pointing the browser to http://wwww.dialogwap.com. We have urged the operators to take much more rural initiatives to take these products to real digitally divide people and also mobile users out of colombo. The “dialog sinhalanthaya” sinhala mobile portal consist of daily news headlines, market prices from all key markets, stock information, lottery results, movies/drama happenings, weather, content downloads and much more. Soon there will be host of other contents from many content providers offering local content. All these contents and the browser is based on Sinhala Unicode.

    The costs of Java/GPRS capable phones have come down drastically within the past year and the phones are now available for around Rs.12,000/-. We beleive such phone prices will go below 10K in near future with more competitive products come into market.

  3. Congratulations! I was reading today that Motorola is planing to set up a manufacturing plant for sub $30 mobile phones in Chennai for India and surrounding region. If the language challenge and the price barrier can be overcome, the opportunities for expanding into the base of pyramid would be feasible and concomitantly bridging some parts of the digital divide.

  4. Dear Goswami,

    We submitted suggesstions to include the language layer support in this low cost handset when they initially announced it with GSM Association (last year). Actually this was a initiative by GSM Association and as per information I received – Motorolla won the initial contract to supply such low cost phones. After going through the phone spec we found out the missing language support layer and urge them to include such to make this a real success. So, they might consider this, but then what happens is costs slighlty can go up and it’s all up to Motorolla to decide. Perhaps their initial target is to empower people with VOICE as in India phone calls are quite cheap compared to LK. They will offer even cheaper tarrifs for people living under 1$-2$ per day. I hope this will be a reality in Sri Lanka too where local national calls are reduced to be affordable to many citizens. Hope with the 5th operator entering the market it will help lowering the tarrifs. Finally let’s hope for a “FREE or EXTREMELY LOW COST VOICE” era where operators will make money mainly out of “DATA SERVICES”. However as per now and perhaps for many years to come “VOICE” will be the killer revenue generator for operators in Sri Lanka.

  5. Quote
    If the language challenge

    Language barrier will not be solved just because you can send a SMS to a particular mobile net work.

    Text data is not compatible.
    If the text data is not compatible no one is solving language barriers.

    First slove the character allocation tables for all indic languages as I have done for Sinhala then let the soft ware developers develop the other relating software based on the respective Character allocation tables.

    Then everything will fall on line else it will be another mess.

    Donald Gaminitillake

  6. I will take a working system any day to a solution that exists in a book.

  7. If it is working system send the raw text data to a computer so that the people can edited the raw text irrespective to the operating system. (example like the latin script)

    If the text data cannot be edited using any operating system it is not a solution it is a game of monopoly.

    All the working systems are of full individual characters not parts of characters like the indic languages. You got to understand between a part of a character and a full character.

    the German umlaut character Ä is listed in unicode as one character.
    Defined as ISO 10646 Table 2 row 00 Latin -1 Supplement
    DEC 196 as = latin capital letter A with diaeresis

    When you key in you use more than one key to enter this character. Irrespective to the key in method on any system umlaut character Ä will not change the format. This character has a absolute code point.

    If you have sometime come over with Dr. Rohan I will show you how other systems work.

    Donald Gaminitillake

  8. You can cook up any number of scenarios to come up with improbable ones where the system will not work, like sending a sms to a computer to do text editing! Who in the right mind would do that? No wonder you haven’t able to operatiionalize your standard, you have been too busy pulling down other innovations that work. I feel for you man, I can sense your frustration in your posts but I don’t have the time to do therapy via blog.

    I am concerned about whether the cheap $30 handset can receive and send sms in the local languages of the region. The very fact that Microimage’s system with warts and all is being bought by mobile operators is indicative that the system has enough features operators find valuable to users, otherwise they wouldn’t be paying money for it. The success of most products and service are how they do in the marketplace. I would rather USE your system as a commercial product rather being given a private demo of your wonderful system (in theory) at your place.

  9. Quote
    sending a sms to a computer to do text editing

    News media people and who are at anchor will send text SMS to the base sometimes with images.

    Really I would like to meet you

    Donald Gaminitillake

  10. Microimage SMS product which is launched in Sri Lanka has the ability to send TEXT SMS messages to a PC. So anyone who wish to try this out and see it for real can download it from dialogwap.com. Then can send a message in Unicode Email form to a PC or as a SMS as long as PC has the reciving components. It will appear as Sinhala TEXT. For more inforamtion about the product can be obtained from http://www.microimage.com/mobile.

    In India there is no monoploy as we had to compete with many players and Airtel selected and launched our service after many evaluations. If not known Airtel is the #1 mobile operator in INDIA and they have many experts on this subject and we cant fool anyone.

    Apart from sending to a PC, we will be facilitating scrolling text on a TV as well in near future. We get more encouragement to do more and more innovations with comments made to us for our innovations. We warmly welcome many more such which will fuel our innovations and will give more determinations to do challenging tasks.

    We have proved Unicode works. We have proved that our SMS application is not only accepted in Sri Lanka but also in India & Maldives. But we dont simply have time to discuss theory and waste many years rather than return practical/workable solutions to the world/society which we live.

  11. Quote
    Unicode works

    Unicode works but not SLSI 1134 and Sinhala Unicode

    Do not mix Unicode consortium and SLSI 1134 = Sinhala Unicode

    Sinhala unicode is incorrect and incomplete

    Give code points for “DU” “GU” “KU”

    Apart from sending to a PC

    You can send the data to a PC but can you read like the “Latin Script” one will need the same set of fonts.that the SMS used. This is the problem that I am addressing.

    There is no proper standared for indic languages. First the standared then the software based on these standard. Otherwise it is a game of Monopoly.

    not only accepted in Sri Lanka

    Only with one service provider and need a specific type of handset and extra payment.
    You cannot send a SMS in Sinhala to another service provider in Sri Lanka.
    It is a game of Monopoly which is an illegal practice.

    we dont simply have time to discuss theory and waste many years

    You are having your own set of codepoints that you are not publishing to other software developers.

    I am the person in Sri Lanka who had properly published the codepoints for all Sinhala characters.

    First we have to get the Sinhala standard correct then provide the code points for all developers to make correct and proper software for the betterment of Sri Lanka

    Donald Gaminitillake

  12. It is appalling that Tamil SMS phones are not being sold outside of Tamil Nadu state in rest of India. In Bangalore, Tamil are majority by population. However Tamil versions of Nokia 1100, 1600 are not being sold. I have also learnt that the Multilingual Samsung C210 and C230 have also stopped being sold. Only Hindi and small numbers of Kannada phones are sold.

    This is yet another example of Hindian fascsism in India (Hindia?). Hindi and the Hindians are the only ones who will be served.

  13. Dear “?????”

    I am the only person addressing this issue in SriLanka for Sinhala and Tamil.
    Pls visit my site http://www.akuru.org and
    for more details

    When we solve this issue in Lanka all Ethinic Indian languages could be corrected and follow the same path.

    Donald Gaminitillake

  14. Donald may see ???? but I see Tamil characters in the sender’s name!

    This is a first.

    I have never downloaded any Tamil fonts, so this is unusual.

  15. Yes, I see the tamil charachters too without any font download. This itself show he is blind to all other language developments except his imaginary design which is still pending development. It’s quite pathetic the way he misleads everyone jumping from one thread to another. So new visitors get easily mislead. Also new visitors get blind sometimes and start discussing the same stories over and over again where he gets new Life to continue as new visitors gets to think he’s the guru for all indic languages. I saw this pattern now for almost a year the manner he misleads in all threads whenever he gets an opportunity with a new visitor.

    To சிவா:

    Tamil SMS as an application is available to download via Airtel in Tamil Nadu. Also others are going to roll out as well. Your comments are very valuable and will pass them to some people in TN to take some actions to make them available in other states of India. Also a leading Indian VAS provider is going to push the Tamil SMS to all operators soon.

    As per Nokia and Samsung it must be something to do with the distributors in TN.

    There is no issue as mentioned above as each language will follow it’s establish standard and many are following the path of Unicode.

  16. He may be using the Same technique as the Lankaenews .

    You may see in your system but not on my system.

    Unlike the Latin script You may not be able to cut and paste it into another application.(machine -editable)

    This is the issue I am addressing for all indic languages

    Donald Gaminitillake

  17. Very sad to hear such comments from someone who plans to introduce solution to indic languages standardization. It seems like you are using a computer & a O/S which is not common to all others.

    The above is typed using a Unicode Font. The typical and popular is Latha. I successfully copy and pasted to Word and others and it appears without any issue. (no need to try, as this works all the time except for you) Oh! luckily this time it’s tamil so you can’t argue on the SLSI 1134. So why not investigate how this tamil font works globally in the above person and many others and except you. No wonder you cant understand the foundationa and the workings of unicode other than you char allocation table. I feel sorry for people who put lot of energy to explain the technicalities behind how sinhala unicode works to someone who was blind throughout as now it appears donald is confused with tamil unicode as well.

    It’s no point people trying to convince when you are blind to accept the reality. You will keep on asking for the positions of your famous DU, KU, GU. Why not start questioning some tamil chars to figure out the issue above where me, prof samarajeeva and other person interoperated without an issue and you struggle. Start questining for positions of tamil chars to see whether people from TN can start an argument with you. So another thread might be open for that “Software issues in Tamil” in some blog.

    You can get some help if you wish to really read the above which is posted from somone perhaps outside Sri Lanka. Visit the famous wiki itself

    Also do not forget to specially read the below part from wiki,

    Why does Tamil Wikipedia use Unicode?
    It’s an accepted standard (see above section).
    Software to view and edit comes either with the Operating System or is freely available.
    Search is seamless.
    It is extremely easy to translate the wikipedia’s interface.
    See discussion on Unicode usage in Wikipedia.

    So in conclusion same applies to Sinhala Unicode! Places like wiki, google, microsoft, open-source all use Unicode! So all the best with your standard and try convincing MS, Google to others with your incompatibility, incomplete story.

  18. You have “LATHA FONT” in your system I do not have it on my system.
    If you use “LATHA FONT” you will be able to cut and paste.
    Can you cut and paste it to helawadane? your own product?
    Or A Tamil text created by Helawadane into Latha Font in word?

    Donald Gaminitillake

  19. Dear Harsha

    You will keep on asking for the positions of your famous DU, KU, GU.

    Same applies to Tamil and all other indic languages other than Bengali and Hindi as they are redoing their Character sets.


  20. all send me tamil sms

  21. How to Download Sinhala SMS Mobile Application?

  22. Nokia , dialog, mobitel had done some work on Sinhala SMS
    none is compatible across all platforms simply because the Sinhala unicode is incorrect and not suitable for computer

    Quote from unicode


    “There is a standard extant for Sinhala described in A Standard Code for
    Information Interchange in Sinhalese by V.K. Samaranayake and S.T. Nandasara
    (ISO-IEC JTC1/SCL/WG2 N 673, Oct. 1990). The coding proposed in it was found
    to be an inadequate basis for a modern, computer-based interchange code,
    though it is adequate to handle the capabilities of a Sinhala typewriter for
    representing contemporary colloquial Sinhala. ”

    Read more on these links given below

    Donald Gaminitillake

  23. All fabricated problems and explanations on Sinhala Unicode (related to Tamil) are discussed here. Free for anyone to comment.