All About Bulk SMS

What is Bulk SMS?
The term refers to the facility to send multiple text messages from PCs or online to mobile handsets.

Is all Bulk SMS the same?
On the surface, it would appear that the facility to send this type of SMS is essentially the same from one provider to another. In reality there are vast differences in the quality of the messages that you can send. The key factors are:

Speed: how long does it take for each message to reach the handset?
Volume: are there limits on the volumes of SMS that can be sent, and will they affect the speed?
Reporting: do they include delivery reports and failure types?
Dynamic Sender ID: can you set your own number or name as the header?
Sending platform and integration: how can you manage the sending? Is there an easy to use platform or do you require integration into an existing system?
Support and SLA: what are the typical server uptimes and can you get immediate support?
Reply messages and other services: can you receive SMS replies? Can you send an MMS? Can you send non-Latin characters?

All of these things vary widely from one provider to another, so simply choosing on price may not give you the type of SMS you require. For example, the methods of delivering messages in the UK can widely affect the speed. Some very cheap bulk SMS services use non-UK routes to deliver the messages into the UK. They basically use cheap inter-networking agreements rather which are designated only for peer to peer messages. The result is that messages sent via this route can take hours to arrive on the handset, if at all. Even though these routes appear cheap, in reality the cost per message delivered to the handset is actually very high.

There are some very low rates quoted for Bulk SMS but we always advise to look at the details carefully. Some providers commit you to a minimum monthly volume. Others expire messages after a few months. Some quote very low rates on their site, but only offer those for extremely high volumes. We keep our SMS prices clear and simple (from 3.0p each for the UK), there is no expiry on messages and no monthly fees.

Apart from simple, small volume sending, it is rare that a bulk SMS programme can be implemented without some kind of help or support from the provider. Whilst many users want phone support so they can simply call and get an answer to their problem, many SMS providers do not offer this. It makes the setting up process lengthy and frustrating.

How easy is it to get the data about text messages sent, delivered or failed? Some providers do not offer individual message reports outside of an integrated API. In other words, it is not simple to check whether a message has been delivered or not. If you are looking to carry out regular bulk SMS marketing, for example, it is important to be able to track delivery rates simply and quickly. For this, a simple yet comprehensive reporting system is essential.

Most bulk SMS providers offer integration through an API, but the ease of this can vary wildly. Typically integration is made either via http (ideal for sending one message at a time) or via SMPP, which is designed to send larger message volumes. Typically the message sending is quite straight forward to set up, however the tricky part is receiving deliver receipts and incoming messages. The way that most systems work is that you need to set up a receiving URL and give that to the bulk SMS aggregator. Both good service and API documentation are essential to making this an easy and successful process.

What about international bulk SMS?
The facilities vary widely from country to country, as do the costs. A good SMS provider will be able to cover all routes globally, although typically a handful of networks may be out of action at any given time. It is important if you are delivering outside the UK to ensure that your provider has both good coverage and updates on any routing problems.

How can I find out more?
Please call us on 020 7490 8779, or email us if you would like to find out if our bulk SMS service is right for you. We are happy to arrange a demo, some test messages and give you copies of our API documents.

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Written By: Paul Norman (First Tutors)