An SMS center (SMSC) is responsible for handling the SMS operations of a wireless network. When an SMS message is sent from a mobile phone, it will reach an SMS center first. The SMS center then forwards the SMS message towards the destination. An SMS message may need to pass through more than one network entity (e.g. SMSC and SMS gateway) before reaching the destination. The main duty of an SMSC is to route SMS messages and regulate the process. If the recipient is unavailable (for example, when the mobile phone is switched off), the SMSC will store the SMS message. It will forward the SMS message when the recipient is available.
Very often an SMSC is dedicated to handle the SMS traffic of one wireless network. A network operator usually manages its own SMSC(s) and locates them inside its wireless network system. However, it is possible for a network operator to use a third-party SMSC that is located outside the wireless network system.