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A Quick Guide to SMS Gateways: What They Are and How to Choose the Right Provider

|  6 min
In this article


Consumers in the digital economy frequently rely on handheld personal devices like smartphones or tablets to get information about the products and services they require – and for completing transactions that relate to these commodities. Businesses therefore need to consider having a proactive presence in the mobile communications arena.

This is particularly true when it comes to SMS text messaging. It’s estimated that around 98% of all text messages are opened by the receiver – generally, within about three minutes of receipt. This means that in business, SMS messaging is definitely a communications channel worth pursuing.

As enterprises may have hundreds, thousands, or even millions of consumers, regularly communicating with this customer base through text messaging requires enabling technologies that simplify the process. One of these is the SMS gateway.

What Is an SMS Gateway?

An SMS gateway is a technology platform that enables you to send SMS text messages from a software application or computer to a mobile phone (or other SMS capable device), via a telecommunications network.

Since in most cases messages sent from software applications aren’t compatible with SMS text format, it’s necessary to alter this information before it reaches the recipient’s mobile device. An SMS gateway translates software application messages into a format that mobile devices can recognize. It then makes the data compatible for delivery over the network so that it can successfully reach the recipient.

The first SMS gateway implementations were actually physical devices that had SIM cards and embedded radios. Users had to individually connect each SMS gateway device to a mobile phone network in order to send text messages.

Modern SMS gateways are software or cloud-based installations that use digital communication protocols to route SMS text messages to the telecommunications networks.

How a Modern SMS Gateway Works

Modern SMS gateways typically route SMS messages to the short message service centers (SMSCs) of mobile networks. An SMS gateway can do this via a short message peer-to-peer or SMPP interface that the mobile networks expose, either directly or using an aggregator that sells messages to multiple networks. SMPP is a communications protocol for exchanging SMS messages between SMSCs and/or external short messaging entities (ESMEs).

Using an SMS Gateway to Provide Text Service for Business Purposes

Business computer systems can interact with SMS gateways in a number of ways.

Using a Web Utility or SMS as a Service Platform

With an SMS as a Service offering or dedicated web page utility, business customers can upload their messages and list of phone numbers, and have the website or service handle the scheduling and distribution of their business SMS output automatically.

Using an SMS API

Software developers can use an SMS API (short message service application programming interface), which is a set of protocols and tools that enables software applications to send and receive text messages (SMS) programmatically. With an SMS API, developers can integrate SMS functionality into their own applications, websites, or systems, facilitating the automation of SMS communication. Once set up, an SMS API can run in the background 24/7, ready to perform the tasks for which it was programmed.

Typically, an SMS API will receive a text message and subject it to various authentication procedures. Once approved, the message may be sent through a series of checks for spam or phishing data, then routed to the relevant telecom operators. Here, the message is sent to a specific connection, so that it can be delivered to its intended recipient.

SMS APIs make it easier for developers to integrate multiple systems with each other. For example, business organizations may require SMS integration with their customer relationship management (CRM), sales, or marketing systems to help enhance the customer experience, or with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) and procurement systems, for better supply chain and vendor management.

Businesses in all sectors can benefit from communicating via SMS and implementing an SMS API or SMS as a Service solution – as long as they choose the correct service provider.

What to Look for in an SMS Gateway Provider

If you consider an SMS gateway as the portal that connects you to the smartphones and personal devices of your customers and contacts, you’ll appreciate why choosing the right provider is critical to the success of your SMS mobile marketing strategies. However, not all SMS gateway providers were created equal – and there are many of them out there.

Here are some recommendations for making the right choice:

Choose an SMS Gateway Provider with Global Reach

If you’re looking to reach out to a worldwide customer base or have a network of international operations, you’ll want to choose an SMS gateway provider that can connect with as many mobile networks around the world as possible. For example, with IDT Express SMS APIs, you can send messages to over 70 countries globally using our local DID numbers. You can also receive messages in 14 different countries on your SMS-enabled phone numbers.

Choose an SMS Gateway Provider with the Most Versatile SMS API

Generally, your best option is to choose an SMS gateway platform that offers a REST API – which is a class of application programming interface that’s widely used (therefore offering greater compatibility) and widely recognized in the telecommunications industry. An SMS API with REST capability will typically provide quicker communication, better performance, greater security protection, and scalability.

Choose an SMS Gateway Platform that’s Easy to Use

You won’t want to waste valuable time and energy navigating a steep learning curve for your business SMS solution. Look for an SMS gateway provider that offers ease of use and easy integration with your business systems. IDT Express SMS API, for example, offers a user-friendly wizard-driven code generation process that’s fast and effortless to utilize. With our SMS API, you can seamlessly build customer journeys by fostering interactive conversations, all within the framework of your app – and swiftly integrate IDT’s Platform into your current systems or applications.

Look for a High SMS Throughput

SMS throughput is a measure of how many text messages you can send per second. For timely business SMS communications, the higher this figure is, the better. You should therefore consider the volume of messages that you hope to deliver (and how quickly you want them sent), and check that your SMS gateway provider can meet these expectations.

Violating the laws that govern the sending of SMS messages in your areas of operation can have serious legal and financial consequences. In the US, for example, the sending of spam, phishing SMS, and other unauthorized communications can result in fines that range from $500 to $1,500 per unauthorized text. Offenders also expose themselves to the possibility of civil suits from SMS recipients.

In some countries, the law does not hold the SMS gateway service provider responsible for the sending of unwanted texts. The result of this is that some SMS gateway providers may allow subscribers to do whatever they want with no oversight – or have little knowledge of the relevant laws in particular locations.

To ensure that you’re covered legally, it’s important to know where the SMS gateway provider operates from, and what their approach is to full compliance with the relevant local laws.

Choose an SMS Gateway Provider with Great Customer Support

Even with the highest levels of automation, you may encounter issues with your SMS gateway deployment, or have questions about your SMS as a Service offering. In such cases, you’ll need excellent customer support.

However, customer support levels vary between SMS gateway providers. Some services only offer online help through an SMS chatbot or knowledge base. Others provide dedicated human support via phone or video calls.

Depending on the way you like to work, it’s important to choose an SMS gateway provider with the appropriate level of customer support.

IDT Express’s SMS APIs offer comprehensive documentation to facilitate quick deployment and 24/7 support for you and your team. With IDT’s reliable and scalable Notifications API, you can create highly personalized SMS notifications that cater to any use case with unmatched flexibility.

To find out more about how the IDT Express SMS API can provide a secure, user-friendly, and reliable SMS gateway for your business, book a demo.

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