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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Free SMS and HLR Lookup

Free SMS and HLR Lookup

Why you should care about selecting Free SMS services?

Free and discounted offers are tempting and common in SMS Marketing but there is a catch.  You've probably all seen the adverts:
  1. SMS Free SMS
  2. Free SMS to UK
  3. SMS Free Free SMS
  4. Free SMS Messaging
So what is the catch because nothing is for free right?  To understand the answer, you need to appreciate how the supply chain for Bulk SMS works.  All readers who understand the supply chain may want to skip a few paragraphs because I've attempted to explain the supply chain below:

Mobile Operators and SMS Aggregators

Mobile operators worldwide have a wholesale business unit.  Their job is to work with partners to resell the Mobile Operators' services.  If you are a Marketing Agency or Brand delivering a service via SMS it is likely you will connect to your customers through an SMS Aggregator.  The aggregator is likely to be a resale partner of the Mobile Operator.  Each operator will only have a few resell partners due to the complexity of managing too many commercial relationship.

SMS Network Coverage

Life starts to become complicated as SMS Aggregators expand their coverage.  Direct Connections allow the SMS Aggregator to achieve the best price and quality for their customers but they are not easy obtain.  To achieve global coverage each SMS Aggregator will trade with other aggregators in order to achieve the best price and coverage for their own customers.  Once global coverage is achieved, it becomes difficult to figure out the actual route any SMS travels to reach its final destinations.  At each step, someone takes margin. As well as cost and coverage, quality curiously comes into play, but what does it mean?

SMS Quality

The resulting network derived from aggregators and operators interworking with each other is complex and lurking within are plenty of nasty traps, but they are not always easy to spot.  Some examples are below:
  1. Mobile Number Portability Correction.  To ensure SMS reaches the correct destination you need to know which operator any number belongs.  If you don't correct for number portability, the results can be unpredictable.  Mobile Operators can terminate offnet SMS (SMS sent to numbers not in their network) and charge an extra fee.  Other Mobile Operators and Aggregators will reject the traffic, and some will simply ignore the message.
  2. SMS Anti-Spam Checking. Some aggregators don't check their traffic for SPAM, The following post describes HLR Lookup is abused to generate SMS Spam. In such cases, they risk being cut off by the provider who is handling their outbound traffic.
  3. No Contractual Permission. Some aggregators don't have contractual permission to terminate SMS.  Instead they exploit vulnerabilities in the complex network of connections in order to get traffic delivered in some cases free of charge.  Sounds great doesn't it.  At some point though that vulnerability will be spotted and the loophole closed down.  The following post describes how HLR Lookup is a primary cause of SMS Fraud.

Back to the question, why should you care about Free SMS, or for that matter Low-cost SMS?

I hope you got a feeling for the complexity of the network required to deliver SMS.  The good companies, most have been around for 10 years or more, have lots of experience and tools that enable them to manage cost and quality.  Less mature providers, and dare I say rogue providers, will not have all of the tools and experience and may exploit network vulnerabilities.  The results could be:
  • Your aggregator is cut-off because they are abusing network vulnerabilities.  You've paid your money and the messages never got delivered and the company has then disappeared.
  • Your provider has used your number list to send out their own SPAM.
  • You get a great deal one week from your supplier but the next week they cannot provide you with coverage, so you have to find a more reliable supplier.
  • Your traffic is delivered via a SIM Farm.  These are not direct connections which some providers claim, in most cases the provider is committing fraud.  The post describes other cases of SMS Fraud and Security
No supplier is perfect, and even the best have some issues.  So if you care about your messages make sure that you build a good relationship with your supplier.  SMS is not a commodity, but many think it is.

Survery: is Bulk SMS Marketing a commodity?

If you are interested in keeping SMS as a great marketing and communication tool for business then please follow my blog, get involved and comment, and view the other good internet sources below.

  • GSMA Mobile Spam Code of Practice
  • Mobile Number Portability, alternatives to HLR Lookups with MCC/MNC.

  • Return to HLR Lookup home page


    1. Hello, I am running a marketing business in uk and I send SMS on a big quantity to my customers! so I am looking some Bulk SMS service provider that’s fulfill my business needs and also suits to pocket .can nay one help me out.

      1. I don't want to breach my impartiality by naming some suppliers. A google search for 'review of best sms aggregators' provides some hints. The only advice I can give is what is written in this blog. Like all things, if some suppliers sell SMS signficantly cheaper than the others you should question what you are getting for your money.

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