We live in the information era where even a newborn baby knows how to handle technological devices, let alone sending a message. Imagine a day without texting someone? Seems terrible to me. Sending messages has also become an indivisible part of online marketing strategies. I guess it is a good idea to know what SMS and bulk SMS actually are, and how they really work.

What is SMS?

Short message service (SMS) is a wildly popular feature available on all digital mobile phones. SMS allows users to send short messages to other cell phones. These short messages are called text messages. SMS was invented by a Finnish civil servant named Matti Makkonen. Many people understand what SMS is but few understand how it actually works.

How Does SMS Service Actually Work?

In SMS, messages are sent with a “store-and-forward” mechanism. The messages are sent to a Short Message Service Center (SMSC) and then transmitted to the intended recipient. If the messages do not reach the recipient upon the first attempt, then the system will try again. It is important to understand that SMS delivery is not guaranteed. Many messages cannot be delivered but the delivery is called “best effort.” The amount of attempts to send a text message varies.

SMS messages are transmitted via SS7 within the standard GSM MAP framework. SMS messages have a certain payload length. The signaling protocol is precisely 140 bytes. In simple terms, SMS messages have very constrained character limits. This is why messages are sent in “text speak.” Text speak is the practice of shortening words and phrases in order to fit messages into the allowed amount of bandwidth. SMS messages cost different amounts in different countries. In the United States, the average message costs about 10 cents and sometimes less.

Text messages do not always have to be sent from mobile phone to mobile phone. There are a lot of messenger applications, such as WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram and others that have become huge among people because they provide a free messaging application. SMS messages can also be utilized to give news alerts. Additionally, SMS messages can be used to give sports updates and statistics. SMS messages are by nature very flexible in how they can be used.
Technology is constantly evolving. SMS services prove that communication is becoming broader and easier. Technologists predict that SMS service will advance such that the service will be more reliable, and be able to store more data for the purpose of transmission.

But what if you want to send SMS to many people at the same time?! Here comes Bulk SMS Service. Let’s dive into this service and figure out some details.

Bulk SMS Guaranteed Delivery VS Commercial Bulk SMS Routes

The bulk SMS industry changed substantially over the last two years or so, as spam became an issue with carriers and the industry defined itself by distinguishing between the features of a route and the price the client pays. As a result, we now live in a situation where you get what you pay for.

Now let’s take a look at the difference between commercial bulk SMS routes vs guaranteed bulk SMS routes, also known as premium bulk SMS.

Commercial bulk SMS routes:

Commercial bulk SMS routes may include all the features a guaranteed route offers but the delivery is not always guaranteed. Users, therefore, always have to test before they send a batch. Always include one message at the end of the batch sent for management to check whether the messages before theirs were delivered. Some of the very cheap bulk SMS routes might not offer delivery reports, have fixed numeric sender ID, etc.

Guaranteed Bulk SMS routes:

Guaranteed bulk SMS routes, on the other hand, guarantee not only the delivery but also include all the features that clients wish for (delivery reports, dynamic sender ID, shortcode originator, binary support, etc). That is the advantage. The only downside is that guaranteed bulk SMS routes are charged at a premium price.

So, let’s take a look at the price issue:

Let’s suppose a client purchases 1 million credits from a commercial bulk SMS route where delivery is not guaranteed, at say 0.02 Euro per SMS. Upon sending, only 50% of the messages arrive. That implies that the client achieved 50% delivery rate and in effect paid double the price per SMS.

With guaranteed bulk SMS routes the client will pay, for example, 0.04 Euro per SMS and obtain 100% delivery rate. This could play a crucial role in the effectiveness of a campaign.

Here is an example. Cases where the client runs a competition and the recipients have to SMS an answer to a question via a shortcode.
If 100% delivery rate is not ensured, the company running the competition does not only lose out on the branding opportunity but also the revenue share they would have earned from the networks. 100% delivery rate at a higher price ensures that the response expected from an SMS campaign equals the input.

The final decision about which route to choose depends completely on the client and in consulting them, we should determine what sort of response they expect from their campaign. The features and service level should match the price they are willing to pay.
Bulk SMS decisions nowadays cannot depend on the price alone anymore – quality is surely a rising issue with most gateway customers. The use of guaranteed bulk SMS routes is on the rise as clients are starting to realize that it is worth paying for quality.