Cont. from txtNation Blog.

There are a number of factors you need to consider when choosing your SMS service provider; so that you can bill your customers via their mobile phone send SMS text messages as part of your overall marketing and billing strategy effectively and in line with industry regulations.

Every country has its own mobile marketing legal compliance rules and rightly so: A mobile phone number is sacred, we carry our mobiles with us all of the time and research shows that over 90% of text messages are read within 4 minutes of being received. That’s huge. So we, as marketers, need to treat this with respect and be intelligent with our SMS marketing and billing.

txtNation is a 100% opt in service, we are at the forefront of legal compliance and we take this very seriously. We work with our clients to ensure that you are fully within the regulations and are getting the most out of your mobile billing and marketing campaigns.

As an example, Phone Pay Plus in the UK requires that premium rate services must:

  • be upfront about the service they offer and the cost
  • treat consumers fairly
  • comply with the law
  • not invade consumer privacy
  • not cause harm or unreasonable offence to consumers
  • resolve consumer complaints quickly

We provide a list of regulator resources a our support site http://sd.txtnation.com/

In order to help you get the very best out of your SMS marketing and billing, we have great account management support and ticketing time is below 2 minutes.

With txtNation, you can build you own mobile payment and messaging services in the cloud, on top of our robust platform via our SMS gateway API. The txtNation Gateway is everything you need to build your own mobile and SMS solutions to your exact requirements, end-to-end.

Contact us to find out how it can benefit your business today.

Our USSD Gateway

Over the last several years we have been hard at work behind the scenes, working with mobile networks, partners and technology enablers to bring USSD into our mobile messaging options; joining our ever popular carrier grade Bulk SMS and HLR Lookup Gateway connections.

This introduction occurred because of two main reasons: i) demand to use this tech from our clients and ii) we realise the future potential of this powerful ‘session’ based messaging technology.

USSD seems to have been forgotten among the more obvious technologies, namely SMS, which is a shame considering its design and build is perfect for many service options, from mobile payments through to interactive chat.

Overlooking USSD?

USSD is a communication protocol that works across the mobile GSM networks.

It is a real-time messaging option similar to SMS, where it sends the message (MT) utilising the signaling channel. The most notable difference from SMS which uses a ‘store and forward’ message flow is that with USSD it works on a ‘session’ based connection.

Advantages of USSD (V’s SMS)

USSD has many key advantages as a mobile messaging option:

1. USSD provides cost effective messaging worldwide.
2. USSD allows messages to take place during a call.
3. USSD does not incur charges for roaming.
4. USSD works with interactive menus as well as notifications (nSMS).
5. USSD is much faster then other messaging options, as it is session based – always having an active connection.
6. USSD is not mobile software or SIM based. i.e. it can run without both. Just requiring a connection to the the GSM network.

There are two types of options:

  • Push

Network pushed USSD service in which the network (MSC, VLR and / or HLR) sends the USSD message toward mobile subscriber.

  • Pull

Mobile Subscriber requested USSD with user sending a USSD message towards the Gateway. i.e. using USSD Short Codes. e.g. *100

New Types of Services using USSD

USSD is gaining more popularity for interactive menu driven services like mobile banking, roaming with prepaid service, callback services, mobile chat, software upgrades, etc.

Alongside the above, here is a list of some popular active service types using USSD:

‘Push’ services (i.e. one way nSMS – Notifications)

  • Voting and polling
  • Announcements

‘Pull’ based services like informational services (i.e. request using USSD Shortcodes)

  • News, Sports updates
  • Currency updates
  • Ticket Purchases being a very common use of USSD.
  • Call centres using USSD (replacing IVR (Voice Support)).

Disadvantages of using USSD for your Messaging

  • USSD can resource heavy; meaning increased load on the channels between the MSC and the HLR. However, these resources are more efficiently utilised in USSD than to SMS which means increased traffic on the channels between the MSCs and the HLR.
  • No delivery reports are provided with USSD unlike with SMS.

 

The future of USSD Messaging?
New innovative services are starting to gain popularity across social networking, USSD gaming and gambling and other forms of mobile entertainment.

USSD has large growth potential especially across the link between mobile billing; that is to make a mobile transaction when in a USSD session, quickly and securely.

Understanding the limits of IVR (voice) and SMS is important. USSD offers so much to look at with its speed and flexibility, it is not to be overlooked anymore.

You can start to use this innovative messaging offering by connecting to our USSD Gateway.

Common questions we often get asked are within the common overlap and synergy between HLR Lookup and Bulk SMS, including how to make Bulk SMS messaging more successful.

The Home Location Register (HLR) is the database of mobile subscribers for the mobile network in question.  It also keeps track of the user’s location on the mobile network, (or another mobile network if ‘roaming’ - Virtual Location Register) so incoming calls and messages can be routed through the correct tower.

With high number portability rates worldwide, it has become difficult to deliver precise SMS to these mobile numbers, because SMS messages are sent on the first network and it fails delivery. This has lead to the use of HLR Lookup for Bulk SMS, something that at txtNation we are very informative about.

 

HLR Lookup allows you to identify numbers ported to another network (MNP) and any invalid numbers.
Where number portability is high in some markets across the world, HLR increases in value even further.

 

Virtual Location Register
The Virtual Location Register is a database which contains information about all the mobile subscribers which are currently located in the proximity of the MSC. A new record in the VLR is served when a new mobile subscriber is detected in the MSC’s serving area. txtNation have recently added the VLR component to our HLR API options (see below).

Read more on our Virtual Location Register options.

 

HLR Lookup is available for all operators globally via the txtNation gateway. Our HLR platform delivers results rapidly and accurately through HTTP and XML API. As time has gone, there is more mobile portability customers than ever before and as a direct result HLR Lookup has now become a fundamental tool for Bulk SMS messaging.

Take a look at our HLR API on our Wiki.

Kidspotter Case Study

Kidspotter - txtNation

Country: US, Spain

Service Type: Two-way, Non-Premium SMS (Short Code), Bulk SMS

Product: txtNation Gateway SMS API Connectivity

Two-Way SMS

Kidspotter required a partner that provided a robust SMS Gateway, that could facilitate Mobile Messaging for their core services. After extensive research and testing, they chose txtNation.

Course of Action

txtNation are enabling KidSpotter to allow parents to register via SMS to tie the phone in with their revolutionary wrist device. If a child is lost then parents can simply send a text message to the txtNation powered SMS Short-Code which instantly alerts them or the venue.

Added to this innovative offering, is an extra security mechanism where a boundary alert via SMS is sent to the parent when the child leaves the area. KidSpotter locating is achieved by children simply wearing a small, lightweight watch like device.

Results

So far this solution in collaboration with txtNation anchoring the SMS Messaging has been deployed in major theme parks operated by industry leaders, including SeaWorld Entertainments and Parques Reunidos.

Andrew Dunne, Director of KidSpotter says “The partnership with txtNation into our platform is very important as SMS communication is the tool that allows the parent to locate the Spotter being worn by the child through their phone. When choosing a partner, it was vital for us to work with a company with a global reach and have direct connectivity with multiple operators and txtNation very much fits that bill.”


For more information on this service or to contact txtNation about other similar Case Studies, please visit our contact page.

Texttaxi Case Study

Texttaxi

Country: UK

Service Type: Two-way, Non-Premium SMS (Short Code), Bulk SMS

Product: txtNation Gateway SMS API Connectivity

Two-Way SMS

txtNation was approached by Texttaxi who needed a messaging solution for their new venture in aiding people to find a taxi quickly using their mobile handset. txtNation was the natural answer for their needs.

Course of Action

Texttaxi allows people to text the word ‘TAXI’ and the name of their town to a shortcode. In return, they get a message back listing taxi firms and contact numbers in their area, pulling the information from a database.  Travel arrangements can be made with little fuss.

Results

This service is also available online and will give users a directory of local taxi firms. This service has been a boon to natives and tourists alike who need to make travel arrangements quickly and easily. Texttaxi discovered a new way to generate revenue seamlessly because of the flexibility of the txtNation platform and the professionalism and market-leading knowledge of txtNation.

For more information on this service or to contact txtNation about other similar Case Studies, please visit our contact page.

Over the last several years we have managed to assist our clients with many Bulk SMS service deployments, across a wide range of scenarios.

Listed here are some of the most common and typical, showing the impact of Bulk SMS on a business from not only a communication point of view but also and often more importantly, a cost savings perspective.

Listed below are ‘real – world’ savings to each of the below businesses:

Purpose of SMS Messages: Average number of SMS messages sent: Process used prior to using SMS: Cost savings made since SMS was introduced: Benefits to the organisation since SMS was introduced:
NHS 

Patient appointment reminders.

Implemented in April 2010

 

1200 per month 

 

No reminders sent. £3k in nurse appointments annually£15k in missed GP appointments annually 

 

Failed appointments per month have dropped from 40-50 hours to 20 hours with associated cost savings. 

Number of phone numbers they have on record has Quadrupled with patients of all ages volunteering their numbers. No cost to GP practice for implementing the service.

Budget Car Insurance 

Reminders for car insurance renewals

 

3000 per month Email and hard copy letters. £10,500 annually in resource and paper costs. Budget now experience better conversion on renewals and find that their customers experience a smoother renewal process being informed to their mobile rather than a letter which a large majority were not reading.
NHS 

Monthly invite for an annual review for patients with long term chronic conditions i.e. asthma

 

 

100 first contact attempt texts sent per month 

 

Surgeries must send three letters to patients inviting them for an annual review of chronic conditions before the Patient is excluded from the process due to non-responsiveness. 

 

£2676 annually in paper, envelopes, postage, staff time and photocopies. 

 

Cost and staff time plus quality benefits in improved service to patients.
Greater Anglia Trains 

Customer notifications for disruption to services.

Ad hoc. messaging 

Average: 1000 per month

No real-time alerts for regular customers. Just platform announcements when customers were already in the train station. No costs savings against previous output as no action was being taken. Far improved customer satisfaction.
City North Hotel 

Customer reminders of reservations and details of their stay.

500 per month Emails and postal confirmations. Customers given the choice to opt-out of postal confirmations and choose SMS instead provided savings of £2500 annually. Better customer experience.
Mobile engagement was considered by customers to be more in tune with modern consumer expectations.
National Express 

SMS tickets and confirmations.

5000 per month Printed tickets reduced by 30% with customers opting for a mobile ticket instead. Estimated £8,500 annually

SMS tickets more suited to the target audience using the national express services. More convenient and more immediately delivery of tickets.

Green image for the company for reducing paper usage over a year.

Cost Relief: Savings made through the implementation of Bulk SMS communications.


Author: Danny Marino

To ensure quality on your Bulk SMS campaigns, you need to be sure the messages get sent via an Bulk SMS Gateway that is reliable and is cost effective, right?

Well, yes your right on these points, but how do you measure reliability and how do you know if your ‘future’ Bulk SMS messages will arrive on the handset?

No interconnects for your Bulk SMS Gateway?

When choosing an SMS Gateway, you need to be sure that they have direct routes into the mobile networks. Over the course of the last year, mobile networks worldwide are working on ensuring Bulk SMS providers messages do not come from off-shore routes and are always ‘terminated and sent’ from their network. There are some mobile networks that have even gone as far as to cut off this outside connection, meaning to get your message through, the SMS needs to be routed via the mobile operators network ‘only’.

Are the days of using low quality, cheap off-shore Bulk SMS service providers delivering to hundreds of markets coming to an end?

Over time I think that Bulk SMS service providers will need to connect to SMS gateways or aggregators that have the relationships direct!

Obviously not every service provider can get a mobile ‘direct’ connection like us (we don’t expect that!, besides they can use our gateway for this), so they must make sure when choosing an SMS Aggregator to handle their Bulk SMS messaging that they look for this is in place.

Bulk SMS Gateway – Quality first!

At txtNation, we are connected to mobile operators to facilitate Bulk SMS in many markets around the world. This makes it simple to route and terminate messages on the mobile network.

Every day we advise clients on the impact of using these other options as it’s become more of an integral part of the process of speaking with clients on delivering ‘quality’ Bulk SMS options.

Don’t be surprised if more of these off-shore routes are closed down as time goes on and the focus goes back to where it should be – reliable, quality messaging throughput via an SMS Aggregator!

Read more on using txtNation as your Bulk SMS Provider.

Author: Michael Whelan

Bulk SMS Provider pricing

Have you noticed that when you get a quote from a Bulk SMS provider that it can fluctuate for the same country?

And that they claim to offer the lowest price available and they provide the most reliability?

Here is the reality on what is really happening behind the scenes.

Companies like txtNation are a local SMS Gateway operating ‘locally’ in all of our markets, meaning we are compliant with the local regulators and have direct connections with the mobile networks.

You also have the wrong option – connecting to an off shore SMS Gateway where you are sending from international routes, which means your message may not reach your destination! This is a very important distinction as this may result in your SMS marketing campaign’s success or failure.

Bulk SMS Provider Case Examples

Let run over a couple of examples when using a Bulk SMS Provider:

In the first option, when you send an message it goes to the Bulk SMS Gateway in say usually in under 10 seconds, with 99.9% reliability of delivery on the handset – almost instantly.

If you go via an international routing option to get a cheaper rate (and its cheaper for a reason!) your SMS message gets routed off shore, then maybe via one or two more hops and finally comes back to a local gateway, then back to the phone. This whole process can take up to 10 minutes and in most cases has a 70%-80% delivery rate, meaning a large proportion of users don’t even get the message!

Bulk SMS Providers – Why don’t users get your message?

If using off shore routes with your Bulk SMS Provider, the delivery rates will be very low due to:

– Mobile networks like O2 and Vodafone for example, consider overseas Bulk SMS a form of spam and block the messages.
– As your message is hoping all over the word, it’s more likely to get lost!

This is why we always tell our clients that you may have a cheaper source elsewhere, but check with them how they are doing this, as not sending from a local SMS gateway like txtNation, will lead you with low delivery rates, low response rates (if a two-way campaign) and paying more in the long run.

Further Reading:
See our previous post on choosing a Bulk SMS Provider.
Read more on using txtNation as your Bulk SMS Provider.

Quality assurances in your Bulk SMS Gateway provider

Over the last few years Bulk SMS has exploded in it’s usage, with more and more companies looking to service their customers in a more efficient and cost effective way.

The usage of SMS as means of information and communication is growing at around 7 to 8% and markets like Africa and the Middle East are surpassing double this figure.

At txtNation, as a mobile aggregator that specialises in Mobile Billing and messaging we have been hard at work developing our Bulk SMS Gateway platform to cater for large volumes of messages at the best quality. This post follows on from the last blog we wrote about one-way SMS – Futures – Bulk SMS Messaging.

At txtNation, our flagship Bulk SMS Gateway is based entirely on the Nokia protocols – meaning high throughput for Bulk SMS with high reliability.

Why Bulk SMS Gateway Quality matters

I base SMS messaging quality on the following and most important points, several of which I will touch on throughout this post.

– Throughput and Speed
– Delivery Reports (DLR’s / SDN’s)
– Price
– SLA

Some simple and effective questions I recommend you ask your Bulk SMS Gateway provider:

– Ask what relationships the SMS provider has with the networks you are looking to send messages on. As the more layers in the chain, the less likely to be a success (long term!)
– Ask the throughput of the Bulk SMS Gateway.
– Ask for the Service Level.
– Ask the type of payment plan.

Author: Michael Whelan

What we bring to the table

Price of your Bulk SMS Gateway

Our messaging platform ensures that all messages are routed in the most cost efficient way whilst ensuring quality throughout. In collaboration with our mobile operator relations, we we are confident that our solutions deliver at the best price, with the best quality.

Our mobile network connectivity

We have strong, Tier-One relations with mobile operators around the world for our mobile messaging. This has expanded further, on the back of our mobile billing and SMS payment connections over the last several years.

Choosing txtNation as your provider for your Bulk mobile messaging is a choice of hundreds of companies have made, who rely on a bulletproof and reliable Mobile Gateway.

SMS bulk messaging volumes are growing day by day. Every month brings a new messaging record or peak of performance, on the back of new innovative marketing campaigns or just simply because too many people forgot to uncheck *that* box.

SMS Bulk Messaging Campaigns

For campaigns that require an active response from consumers, conversion rates are unusually low. Seasoned businessmen may question the thinking behind investing in such marketing methods; but rarely realise just how cheap corporate SMS bulk messaging has become in the past few years. For example, it’s now possible to send up to four messages to UK consumers, at the same price that one message could be sent between two consumers (£0.12~).

Why? How? Simple. Off-shore messaging routes, taking advantage of “bulk tunnels” (usually where a flat fee is paid per month, opposed to a per message setup), send messages across the globe, from operators that don’t have interconnect messaging agreements in place. Interconnect agreements ensure that all messages being sent to and from each operator (to one another) are accounted for. The end result – some aggregators can offer bulk messaging at a fraction of the cost that it should be.

Mobile Operators becoming more alert to SMS Bulk Messaging

Mobile operators are beginning to wise-up to this. In July, I travelled to Ireland to meet the “big three” mobile operators; Vodafone, O2 and Meteor, respectively. Between them they had in the month prior, cut-off over thirty (30) different “un-regulated” bulk messaging routes into the country. They had been handling hundreds of thousands of SMS Bulk Messaging each month, with no reward. The Irish operators are not alone. Vodacom in South Africa have been carrying out a similar exercise recently.

Fortunately operators worldwide aren’t just stopping at cutting off these routes. They’re eager to encourage legitimate traffic through their networks. Resultantly, most operators are beginning to engage with aggregators in an effort to reduce core costs. So much so that one network recently offered to halve their standard bulk messaging fees. They realise that failure to engage aggregators (and service providers) will result in more off-shore routes being identified and exploited.

The future of SMS bulk messaging sounds pretty clear, then? No. It’s somewhat unusual for Mobile marketers to have MSISDN’s *and* network operator information. If someone were to send 100,000 messages to “Dutch” numbers without specifying which network, we would incur “off-net” charges. When you specify the network, it can provide the ability to send “on-net”, which means sending to numbers that are on the sending network (e.g sending a message to a KPN user, via the KPN network). For off-net numbers (those that are on other networks, e.g. sending a message to a KPN user via another network because the network was not specified) we would incur an internetworking fee in addition to the normal sending fee. These internetworking fees could treble the cost of sending an SMS.

Network Lookup with SMS Bulk messaging?

The solution? Network Lookup. In the next 3-4 years, we will see a switch to a solution that will “ping” MSISDN’s in order to identify its home network before completing the send. With this information, you’ll be able to send via the home network – thus saving on internetworking fees, whilst retaining the reliability of sending direct.

txtNation has been investing in developing new direct carrier relationships. In the past year, we’ve added an extra nineteen connections. These new routes, coupled with the existing connections we have – are helping us to offer highly competitive direct bulk messaging. We also offer Network Lookup as an optional extra. With clever use of this technology, it’s possible to make huge savings, whilst taking advantage of top quality routing.

Interested in sending to the future? Contact us today!

Author: Adam Williams

Find out more about txtNation contact us at http://txtnation.com/about/call/. Connect to txtNation, providing the leading SMS Bulk Messaging provider, worldwide.