While the title of this may look like a techie article, if you are a marketer sending SMS messages it is important to understand the two methods used to drive this technology, SMPP and SMTP.

Both SMTP and SMPP are protocols for sending messages. SMTP stands for “Simple Mail Transfer Protocol” and was first published in August of 1982 as the primary means to send email messages (which is still used today). SMPP stands for “Short Message Peer-to-Peer Protocol” and is the telecommunications industry protocol for exchanging SMS messages.

A few years ago, cell phone carriers decided to give every customer their own email address such as 10digitnumber@mobile.mycinugular.com to help convince their subscribers to stick with their service. Marketers caught on to this as a cheap way of sending someone an “SMS” message. I’m using quotes here because it is really more of an email that can be sent to a cell phone. Sending a text message via the SMPP protocol is a true way to send a text message. When you send a text message from your cell to your friend’s cell (peer to peer), it is being routed it is sending via the SMPP protocol. SMPP is actually routed through the carrier’s cell network vs. their email network. This is an important distinction, which I’ll explain in more detail below.

As noted, marketers started exploiting SMTP as a way to send mobile marketing campaigns because the only real cost is a bit of bandwidth and the time it takes to figure out what each carriers domain were (i.e. @mobile.mycingular.com). Sounds good right? Who wouldn’t want a less expensive and easier way of doing something? On paper I agree this solution sounds like the right way to go but don’t jump the gun just yet, there are a few big reasons why if you are serious about mobile marketing you should be using SMPP. Listed below are the main reasons why SMTP is not for the smart mobile marketer:

    1. Delivery issues: SMTP is not a direct connection to carriers and as a result, messages are much more likely to not end up at it destination. SMPP has priority routing and tends to be delivered at a faster rate. When Stun! used to send SMTP messages, we saw some message take 24-48 hours if it showed up at all. Why? Because the carriers collect a toll fee per message via SMPP and nothing for SMTP.
    2. Legal issues: Did you know there is no legislation for sending SMPP messages? However there sure is when it comes to sending SMTP. As a matter of fact In 2003 Congress enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act to curb spam. As required by the Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules that prohibit sending unwanted commercial e-mail messages to wireless devices without prior permission. This ban took effect in March 2005. The FCC’s ban covered messages sent to cell phones and pagers, if the message used an Internet address that included an Internet domain name (as seen in my Cingular example above). To learn more about this, read my article on “CAN-SPAM for SMS?”.
    3. Lack of reporting: Even though I rag on the fact that SMS is behind email marketing in terms of reporting, SMPP offers a hell of a lot more reports than SMTP does. As a matter of fact SMTP doesn’t offer you anything. Whereas with SMPP, you can receive information such as successful and failed deliveries, and why a text message failed. Carriers can also report back if someone received the message or not, known as a return receipt.
    4. Change of email domain(s): What happens when a carrier changes their email domain? They won’t tell you and all of a sudden your messages will stop going through. We have seen this happen to 2 of the 5 major carriers in the last few years. When you send messages via SMPP, your connection will always be the same and you won’t have to play this guessing game.
    5. Smaller reach: Unlike U.S. carriers, there are few international carriers that offer an email address domain. If you want to expand overseas you won’t be able to do effectively with SMTP. With an SMPP connection, you can reach almost every country in the world.
    6. Lack of communication: When you send a text via SMTP, that is all you can do is send it. What happens when you want a response? Maybe you want to poll your database or give them a chance to win something by responding? SMPP offers full two-way text messaging so you can create a dialogue with your customers and get important feedback.
    7. No branding: There is no ability to get a short code for SMTP. Nobody can text into your brand to interact with you. The only thing you can do is send a one-way message out.
    8. No easy subscribe or unsubscribe: There is no way for someone to quickly and easily get in your database or remove themselves because as I mentioned above, they cannot text into a short code or reply back with an unsubscribe request. With SMPP, all someone has to do is text your keyword to a short code (i.e. JOIN to 38714) and they are on your list. To be removed is just as easy, all you would have to is reply to the short code with “STOP”.

Convinced yet? So how do I start using SMPP you ask? You can use a company like mobileStorm who already has a platform (Stun!) that is set up to send messages via SMPP (and have your own keyword and shortcode as well), or you can get a direct connection yourself by going through aggregators like Singlepoint or Mblox. It costs a lot more to get a deal done with an aggregator than it would be to use Stun! (because of integration costs, license fees and a higher cost per message) however it really depends on your needs. Whatever you decide to do, put your faith in SMPP.

Best of luck!

Jared Reitzin
CEO
mobileStorm Inc.
www.jaredreitzin.com

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