SMS Relay FAQs

pic of SMS Relay user making a call in the street

See general information about SMS Relay - getting started, making a call etc.

See tips for SMS Relay calls.

What’s the point of SMS Relay? Don’t most people have smartphones these days so they could use an app or Internet Relay?

Although the proportion of people with smartphones (that is, mobile phones with internet connections) is increasing rapidly, there are still many people who can’t afford a smartphone, don’t want to pay for data as part of their plan or choose to use only a simple non-internet mobile phone. The government wants to ensure that this group is able to use their mobiles to make a relay call if they want to.

Note that the NRS will be introducing an app for smartphones which will provide access to a range of NRS services later in 2014.

Does it cost to use SMS Relay?

It depends on the type of plan you have for your mobile phone. If you pay for each SMS call then, yes, each SMS within the one relay call will cost you the same as any other SMS. If you have a capped plan then the call will just be part of your cap arrangement. If you have unlimited SMS calls, then you will not pay anything other than your normal plan costs.

What are the hours of SMS Relay?

The service is 24/7. Anytime, anywhere like most NRS calls.

Do I need to register to use SMS Relay?


Isn’t it very slow?

NRS calls through SMS will usually be slower than other NRS calls. This is because SMS is a store-and-forward technology outside the control of the NRS, not a real-time service.

While most SMS messages are received quickly by the intended recipient, the nature of the technology and its protocols means that a proportion can be delayed and a small number never arrive at all.

Someone told me there isn’t a relay officer on the line with SMS Relay. Is this true?

A relay officer is on the line in ALL relay calls. In SMS Relay, the relay officer relays each side of the conversation. It will be similar to all other relay calls. 

So will my emergency SMS go straight through to Triple Zero?

No, your SMS call will go to the NRS. If you need police, fire brigade or ambulance you should include Triple Zero (000) in your message and the NRS computer system will recognise this as soon as the message is received. Your SMS call will then get priority over all non-emergency calls in the queue. When it is answered, the relay officer will place the call to Triple Zero and will stay on the line as long as needed to relay the call to emergency services.

It will speed up communication with emergency services if you include the service you need (fire brigade, police, ambulance) and the location in your original SMS.

Are calls to Triple Zero through SMS Relay really emergency calls?

They are calls to emergency services but they are the least-reliable form of such call you can make through the NRS, due to the nature of SMS technology. SMS Relay should be a last resort for an emergency call if you are unable to make a call to 106 from a TTY, a Speak & Listen call to Triple Zero, or an Internet Relay call to Triple Zero.

How will emergency services cope with the slowness of calls to emergency services placed through SMS Relay?

Emergency service personnel are trained to cope with many different situations. If their only contact with someone in an emergency is via an SMS being relayed through the NRS, then they help that person as best they can given the speed of the information exchange.

Once the location of the emergency caller is established, an ambulance, fire engine etc is despatched and contact is continued with the caller through the NRS.

What’s the difference between general SMS Relay calls and SMS calls in emergencies?

The main difference is that if the call is to Triple Zero (000) then as soon as the call reaches the NRS computer system it gets priority over all non-emergency NRS calls in the queue. When it is answered, the relay officer will place the call to Triple Zero and will stay on the line as long as needed to relay the call to emergency services.

Other than that, SMS calls including SMS calls to emergency numbers, operate the same. The NRS number for the call is the same and the conversation process is largely the same.

Is the role of the relay officer different in SMS Relay than in other types of relay call?

No, the role of the relay officer is the same. They receive the call from the NRS user, place it to the voice party and stay on the line to relay both sides of the conversation.

Is there a ‘best way’ to use SMS Relay, particularly in an emergency?

Yes. There are a few things to remember, particularly in emergencies, to make SMS calls go smoothly. See tips for SMS Relay calls.

If you would like NRS staff to come to talk to you or a group you represent about SMS Relay, then contact the Helpdesk and provide your details.

Make an Internet Relay call Make a Captioned Relay call

24-hour relay call numbers

  • TTY/voice calls

    133 677

  • Speak & Listen

    1300 555 727

  • SMS Relay

    0423 677 767

Make other relay calls
– all the numbers you need