There's no denying the importance of SMS in business communication. It plays a key role in marketing and transactional communications, with impressive open and response rates proving its impact and effectiveness. But have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes – how each SMS message reaches customers from your brand?

An SMS aggregator is a vital part of the SMS delivery process. This article explains what an SMS aggregator does and the role it plays in getting your messages to their destination.

What is an SMS aggregator?

An SMS aggregator (sometimes called an SMS gateway) is one of the intermediaries that sit between a brand and its customers. Many business text messages go through an SMS aggregator, which has direct connections with all global networks (for example, Vodafone, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint).

As the name implies, SMS aggregators 'aggregate' or 'collect' text messages, sending them to customers via the correct routes, so brands don't have to worry about the process.

Where do SMS aggregators sit in the SMS delivery process?

When a brand sends a text message, it must go through the mobile phone network (the wireless carrier) that the recipient is using. The network owns the infrastructure involved with sending and receiving SMS messages.

Imagine a mobile phone network like T Mobile receiving millions of SMS marketing messages each day from businesses targeting their customers. T Mobile would effectively have to deal with thousands of brands, big and small, and the amount of work involved would be impossible.

Likewise, a single brand might have thousands of customers spread across many mobile networks, and it would have to work with each network its customers use. Again, this would take way too much time and effort.

This is where the SMS aggregator steps in. It's an intermediary between a brand and mobile phone networks. Rather than a brand working with multiple networks, they simply send their text messages to the SMS aggregator. From there, the SMS aggregator works directly with the mobile networks to handle the work of sending text messages to the customer.

Mobile network concept

Where do SMS software providers come in?

SMS software providers host an online environment where brands can create their SMS campaigns and manage their operations. There are two main types of SMS providers - those that provide stand-alone software and those that double up as an SMS aggregator.

Messente is an example of an SMS aggregator and an SMS software provider. We have our own platform to enable easy campaign creation and we take care of the aggregation process too. Being an aggregator, we have direct connections with over 800 mobile networks and hubs. This means we’re able to send SMS messages to more than 190 countries, and have control over message routes.

An SMS software provider that isn’t an aggregator can’t provide terminations globally, and so they often choose to focus on a particular market in one country. These types of SMS providers act as an intermediary between the brand and the SMS aggregator.

Still with us? Good! So all that said, the route for text message delivery looks like this:

  1. A brand creates an SMS marketing campaign through an SMS software provider (which may or may not be an SMS aggregator)..

  2. If the SMS software provider doesn’t offer aggregation, it then deals with an SMS aggregator, sending them the SMS campaign and the database of mobile numbers.

  3. The SMS aggregator sorts the mobile numbers according to the network and sends the text message to the networks that customers are using.

  4. The carrier networks deliver the text directly to the customer's mobile phone.

The benefit of SMS aggregators

SMS aggregators are essential to the SMS delivery process because they:

  • Ensure text messages follow the correct route from a brand to the customer.

  • Provide reliability. (Without an SMS aggregator, SMS providers would need to establish reliable connections with all the global networks.)

  • Deliver texts speedily.

  • Hold the highest security standards and can easily handle sensitive data like bank details and 2FA login codes.

  • Help enforce carrier compliance and the text marketing regulations in different countries, e.g. CTIA which covers the U.S.

  • Help get sender numbers provisioned – that's the mandatory process of setting up a number (e.g. short code, long number or toll-free number) brands can use to send and receive texts so that it's recognised by wireless carriers.

Aside from the benefits above, there's another critical reason SMS aggregators are needed. Without them, brands would have to sign individual agreements with each of the networks that they want to do business with. (For the record, there are some 4,600 networks worldwide!)

Can my brand work directly with an SMS aggregator?

It is possible to work with SMS aggregators directly using a messaging API, however, you won’t get the same level of customer service as you would if you use an SMS provider or an SMS aggregator with its own platform. It’s also not feasible for most brands, given the complex set up process.  

The price varies for working directly with SMS aggregators. Not all charge fees but others can be expensive – some require a monetary commitment to a high minimum volume of SMS messages and many charge a high price for low volumes.

Person using a mobile phone

SMS aggregators: a vital part of the SMS delivery process

As a brand looking to carry out SMS marketing to customers, you might not think too much about what goes on behind the scenes. But as you now know, several steps are involved to ensure SMS messages are seamlessly delivered.

An SMS aggregator sits between the SMS software provider and the wireless carriers. It has access to all global networks and is responsible for forwarding your message to the networks your customers are using.

Without SMS aggregators, businesses wouldn't be able to use text messages for marketing and transactional communications like they do today. And without SMS software, cost-effective bulk texting (for text blast campaigns) and scheduled messaging wouldn't happen at all!

These intermediaries are crucial to the entire process. They make it possible for brands to send SMS business messages by merely logging into an app, typing out a text, and hitting send.

For more information on how SMS works, browse our blog. Not yet using SMS messaging services? Get started free with Messente.