In the past 10 years, SMSPortal has come across numerous clients who have been burnt while using SMS to communicate with their target market. Our response, however, is always the same: “Did your numbers come from a local mobile number?” eg, +2782XX, +2783XX and +2784XX? In most cases, the answer is “no”.
Rogue SMS Providers – Lost in space
You may be intrigued as to why we ask this simple question. The main reason is to determine if the client's SMS provider is using local or international routing for SMS delivery.
International SMS routing simply works by establishing a connection to one of many international SMS providers and sending your messages out of South Africa. Your data will often bounce from company to company until it reaches an international network, which has coverage of the network you are trying to send to.
This has the following negative effects:
1. Little control over sending as the chain is too long.
2. Delayed messages due to capacity issues.
3. Deliveries can occur at strange times; this happens when a network has lost coverage and your message has now bounced around until it establishes a route back into South Africa.
4. Messages don't arrive from local South African numbers. This results in clients having no way of opting out or returning communication. If the clients do reply, they will be charged international SMS termination rates.
In order to send messages locally, an SMS provider needs to be a registered WASP (wireless application service provider). SMSPortal is at the forefront with this regard, and takes pride in utilising local routes and supplying a quality service. Most WASPs have a direct connection to each of the networks (Vodacom, MTN, Cell C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta).
This has the following positive effects:
1. The WASP has more control over the messages.
2. Increased reliability.
3. The networks incur very few delays (if any).
4. The WASP has more control over the delivery period (validity period).
5. Messages arrive from local South African numbers; this means clients can reply and it will cost them a standard SMS rate to do so.
So, why do some SMS providers use international routing?
The answer to this is simple, price!
The cost of international termination is approximately 25% of the cost of sending directly to South African networks. Until recently, the networks have done very little to prevent “rogue” SMS providers from using international routing. Vodacom started blocking these routes aggressively in early 2011, followed by MTN in late 2011, and Cell C in early 2012. WASPs have welcomed the efforts of the networks to protect their subscribers. However, “rogue” SMS providers continue to exist, using international routing and offering cheap services based purely on price, with little to no service back-up.
So, what should you look out for when choosing an SMS provider?
1. Does the WASP have direct binds to all the South African networks? This can be checked by simply sending a message to all the networks and ensuring the messages originate from a 16-digit local number with the correct network prefix (eg, +2782 for Vodacom, etc).
2. How long has the WASP been in business?
3. Does the WASP offer systems redundancy?
4. Is the WASP a member of WASPA? (www.waspa.org.za)
As we move forward in our new mobile world, the way in which we implement our marketing strategy and communicate with clientele becomes vital in improving performance, ROI and the longevity of our business. The question is not whether you can afford to research your SMS provider, the question is whether you can afford not to.