SMS gives a voice to your business, reaching customers quickly and effectively. Text marketing is the ultimate mobile engagement tool – it lends itself well to mobile coupons and loyalty programmes and boasts staggeringly high open rates of around 99%. SMS marketing is also cost-effective and yields great results compared to some other forms of marketing.

So how can your business leverage the SMS medium to its fullest potential? The answer is to use a reliable SMS gateway provider's services. Which one to use depends on the messaging features you need, whether or not you have coding knowledge, and the extent of your budget. To help you decide, we've compiled a list of the 11 best SMS gateway providers around. But first...

What is an SMS gateway or SMS API?

We're often asked, "What is SMS gateway?" An SMS gateway lets you send text messages from a computer application to a mobile phone over a cellular network. Traditionally, an SMS gateway was a specialised type of hardware that contained an embedded radio and a SIM card. It would individually connect to different mobile networks. These days, however, SMS gateways are cloud-based systems that work alongside an Application Programming Interface (API).

A modern SMS gateway routes text messages to mobile networks via a Short Message Peer-to-Peer (SMPP) protocol. It enables businesses to connect with customers quickly and easily even though they each have unique SIM cards and may be located in different countries. The SMS gateway provider connects to hundreds of mobile networks and delivers your message to the right person – specifically, the right handset.

How to utilise SMS messages for marketing

SMS marketing is often heavily focused on advertising a business's products or services, with the goals of boosting sales, improving customer retention or increasing customer engagement through two-way SMS. Typical business use cases for SMS marketing include:

  • Driving sales with special promotions – like flash sales, VIP rewards and loyalty codes.

  • Onboarding new customers – with an automated welcome text sent whenever a new subscriber opts in.

  • Administering customer service – answering FAQs, troubleshooting problems and sending web links to further information.

  • Sending business-critical transactional messages – such as order confirmations, appointment reminders, delivery updates and 2FA PIN codes.

Benefits of using an SMS gateway provider

An online SMS gateway API provider gives you access to mobile networks – some have a global reach enabling you to send text messages to customers worldwide. Other benefits include:

  • Bulk messaging support – where you can send the same text message to hundreds or even thousands of recipients at the same time.

  • Scalability – a good SMS service provider can handle any message volume and scale up as your business grows.

  • Fast routing – your text messages get delivered quickly, even if they're being sent halfway around the world.

  • Connectivity and reliability – texts are sent using stable operator routes.

  • Reporting – you'll get access to campaign insights so you can see how well your text messages are performing.
Campaign insights and reports

11 of the best SMS gateway providers

Within this list, you'll find a selection of open-source SMS gateway software solutions that are geared up for developers as well as the best SMS API providers – the latter are SMS sending services that are generally easier for businesses to use.

1. Messente

Messente is an SMS gateway service and API provider that connects businesses to their customers in almost 200 countries. It's an omnichannel solution that supports a wide range of SMS marketing campaigns and time-critical transactional messages.

Main features:

  • Global reach – Messente has partnerships with over 800 mobile networks.

  • Omnichannel messaging – you can also send rich content messages to Viber and WhatsApp users.

  • Supports two-way messaging.

  • Bulk SMS service provider with a 98% delivery rate.

  • Also offers a phone number verification API.

  • Adaptive routing – smart routing algorithms determine the fastest delivery channels.

  • A suite of SMS campaign tools – such as message preview, scheduling, templates, and unsubscribe links.

  • 100% free (human) customer support for all clients.

  • Easy SMS API integration into hundreds of apps through Zapier. The API is also developer-friendly for scalability.

  • Dashboard analytics – delivery reports, campaign history and more.

Pricing: You only pay for the messages you send, making it easy to scale your requirements up or down. The cost depends on the destination country and messaging volume. For example, 1,000 one-way messages to the U.S. costs 0.016 € per SMS. Custom pricing is available for high messaging volumes. Calculate Messente pricing here.

2. Sinch

A customer engagement solution, Sinch supports messaging, voice and email interactions. It offers omnichannel messaging or standalone messaging APIs for single-channel needs. SMS can be integrated into your business systems with a few lines of code.

Main features:

  • Global reach – access to more than 600 mobile networks.

  • Bulk messaging.

  • One or two-way SMS.

  • RCS and MMS available for rich content texting.

  • Verified SMS supported.

  • Customer insights to monitor campaign performance.

Pricing: Not advertised – you'll need to get in touch to get a quote.

3. Jasmin

Jasmin is an open-source SMS gateway written in the Python and Twisted frameworks. It sends and receives SMS through the HTTP and SMPP protocols and has been designed for performance, high traffic loads and full in-memory execution. Jasmin is a message router – it needs to be used alongside a third-party SMS provider to connect to multiple mobile networks.

Main features include:

  • SMPP and HTTP clients/servers.

  • Relies on an Advanced Message Queuing Protocol (AMQP) to queue messages for routing.

  • Ideal for highly scalable applications.

  • Supports multilingual SMS.

  • Advanced message routing/filtering.

Pricing: Being open-source, Jasmin is free to use. Carrier fees will apply.

4. Telnyx

Telnyx is a next-generation communications platform. It's a licensed carrier with direct access to the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN), cutting out intermediaries to provide better quality, lower latency and lower prices.

Main features:

  • SMS API with global reach.

  • Supports MMS.

  • Can integrate with AI chatbots for automated messaging.

  • Deep number inventory – short codes, local and toll-free numbers or an alphanumeric sender ID.

  • Granular reporting for delivery insights.

  • Opt-out management.

Pricing: Prices are applied per message based on the destination, message type and carrier. You're only charged for what you use.

5. Podium

This platform is an Australian-based interaction management system that helps local businesses communicate, market to and collect payments from customers. Podium focuses on helping small businesses interact with leads and customers, collect reviews and improve engagement, with much of this activity done through SMS messaging.

Main features:

  • Growth tools – website chat, text marketing and text message review requests.

  • Omnichannel solution.

  • Central communications inbox to bring customers and channels together in one place.

  • Payment solutions – text to pay, Podium Payments and Podium card readers.

  • Integrates with 180+ applications.

Pricing: Starts at $289 per month (14-day free trial available).

6. Kalkun

Another open-source SMS manager is Kalkun. It uses Gammu SMSD as an SMS gateway engine to send and retrieve text messages from your phone.

Main features:

  • Supports MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite3.

  • Multi-user support.

  • User-friendly interface showing inbox, outbox, personal folders, etc.

  • SMS messages are grouped in conversation view.

  • Phonebook feature available.

  • API access.

Pricing: Free software download.

7. D7 Networks

D7 Networks was created by a group of mobile experts in 2012 and specialises in worldwide, cost-effective and lightening fast SMS transmission and email delivery to businesses across all industries.

Main features:

  • Direct connections to seven continents.

  • Customisable SMS API.

  • Supports Unicode messaging.

  • Two-way messaging is available for conversations.

  • Automated 2FA verification service.

  • Easy integration through plugins.

  • Separate WhatsApp Business API for sending rich media messages.

Pricing: You only pay for what you use. Calculate costs for texting specific countries on the D7 Networks website.

8. MessageBird

MessageBird powers communication between businesses and their customers across various channels, such as SMS, WhatsApp, Instagram, push notifications, email and voice. MessageBird processes more than 5 trillion messages for over 29K customers, which include Facebook, Google and Uber.

Main features:

  • Global reach with access to over 240 direct connections in 140 countries.

  • Omnichannel messaging solution.

  • Inbox product brings together customer conversations across all supported channels for omnichannel service.

  • Send and receive texts through drag-and-drop builders, a point-and-click dashboard or the MessageBird API.

  • Template flows are available to help build engaging experiences.

  • Omnichannel messaging widget can be embedded into any webpage.

Pricing: The costs are based on tiers. You'll get 1,000 monthly messages for free, then it costs £0.0042 per additional message (plus a vendor fee) for up to 100,000 messages. It's £0.0038 per message plus a vendor fee for 100,000 to 500,000 messages.

9. Kannel

A compact and powerful open-source WAP and SMS gateway, Kannel serves trillions of push notifications and text messages across the globe. Kannel is a well-established project, having been founded in 1999 under a different company, Wapit Ltd.

Main features:

  • Open-source WAP gateway that also serves as an SMS gateway for GSM networks.

  • Links HTTP-based services to different SMS centres.

  • Works as a pull and push gateway.

  • Supports Unicode data.

  • Handles hundreds of messages per second.

  • Delivery reports provided.

Pricing: Kannel is free to download; users are encouraged to make a donation.

10. Clickatell

Clickatell is a chat commerce platform that supports customer relationship building through mobile messaging, engagement and payment solutions. Clickatell allows customers to text businesses to make purchases, track orders and resolve problems.

Main features:

  • SMS gateway infrastructure covers more than 1,000 mobile networks.

  • Supports two-way messaging.

  • Omnichannel messaging – SMS, WhatsApp and Messenger.

  • USSD interactive messaging and chat flows.

  • Transact APIs for distributing digital goods (like airtime and data).

  • 99.9% platform uptime.

  • 24/7 network operations monitoring.

Pricing: Dependent on the destination country, one or two-way messaging and message volume. In some countries, one-way messaging isn't available. You can calculate monthly pricing on the Clickatell website.

11. PlaySMS

PlaySMS is an open-source SMS management software and a web interface for SMS gateways. It can be customised for personal messaging needs or group communications and handles bulk SMS (tested up to 200,000 SMS text messages per day).

Main features:

  • Supports multiple database engines.

  • Supports Unicode messages.

  • SMS to email.

  • SMS autoresponders.

  • Supports SMS polls and quizzes.

  • Has a blacklist and firewall plugin for SMS services protection.

  • SMS subscriber management.

Pricing: PlaySMS is free, open-source software (not a free SMS service).

Global connectivity concept

Choosing an SMS gateway provider

SMS works excellently to grab attention, as its open rates suggest. Your business can leverage SMS through an SMS gateway provider.

In this article, we've briefly compared some of the best providers around. Certain solutions mean you’ll need to engage a developer, such as the open-source software options. And others provide an out-of-the-box platform that you can begin using right away.

Why not get started with text marketing using Messente's SMS gateway? Create a free account to try the platform out before buying SMS credits.