We’ve talked before on the blog about why it’s important to work with a Tier-1 SMS aggregator, but today we wanted to go deeper into what exactly one is.
We interviewed Jason Arges, Account Executive for Vibes Connect, to help you understand what you need to know about Tier-1 SMS aggregators and how they can better help you reach mobile users.
Q: How do SMS aggregators get labeled as a ‘Tier-1?’
A: 2016 was the last year the CSCA (the Common Short Code Administration) qualified and displayed which aggregators were Tier-1, describing which providers have direct connections to the top five carrier networks in the US (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, & US Cellular).
This distinction, under the short code registry website, generated complaints from other aggregators who didn’t have all of those direct connections. Those other aggregators felt it was unfair to their businesses that Tier-1 aggregators had a distinct advantage displayed on the website. Through the pressure of those complaints, the CSCA stopped publishing the list.
Since then, companies who are looking to partner with an SMS aggregator are left with a longer list of providers, without any clear differentiators, making it harder to determine which might be a better provider for brands. While the current website does list ‘Premium Partners,’ the designation has no definition and is not very specific to each company’s basic connectivity infrastructure.
The image below shows how the CTIA/CSCA categorized aggregators. There were six Tier-1 aggregators listed, but as the asterisk shows, only four aggregators had connectivity to all five carriers.
Q: Who is a Tier-1 SMS aggregator today...and who isn’t?
A: Most SMS/MMS aggregators will likely tell you that they are Tier-1, but only a few have established their own direct connections to all the top carriers. Just because they say they are Tier-1 doesn’t mean they are a reliable provider, and you should ask a few follow-up questions to determine their level of direct connectivity to the carriers.
Q: What should I be asking my SMS/MMS aggregator?
A: Ask your aggregator which carriers it has DIRECT connections to. Some might say they are a Tier-1 SMS aggregator through a partnership (which is the very definition of indirect), so be sure to know if they have direct technical AND commercial relationships with the carriers or if they are using a third-party aggregator to get that connectivity.
Find out which carriers they don’t have direct connections with and ask who they use for those gaps. A good rule of thumb is that you should seek a partner with direct connections to at least all the top carriers, but it’s typical for aggregators to use other partners for small regional carriers. Remember, it’s YOUR traffic that will be running through them, so shouldn’t you know the reliability of who’s carrying your precious messages?
If you don’t get a clear enough answer, suggest that they could give you a reference from their contact at AT&T and Verizon.
Q: Who does Vibes consider a Tier-1 SMS aggregator?
A: As you can see in the screenshot above, Vibes was one of four SMS aggregators in the US with direct connections to all five major wireless carriers. The others are CLX (formally mBlox), OpenMarket, and mGage.
Q: Does being a Tier-1 SMS aggregator even matter?
A: If you happen to care about the reliability, speed, price, and peace-of-mind of knowing your messages reach the intended recipient in a timely manner, then YES it does.
For example, if an aggregator has less than the five direct connects with major carriers, there’s a link in the chain that will cause delays in provisioning and migrating short codes. Fewer direct connections also means service interruptions are harder to find and resolve when they occur and messages must go through an additional organization, data centers, and at least one more API to reach their destination. The fewer connections, the better.
SMS/MMS aggregators who rely on third parties for connectivity may migrate short codes to other companies without the customer's knowledge or input. One day your messages are routing through one company, and then without warning, the next day your messages could be switched over to another provider. Partnering with a Tier-1 aggregator means there are no other companies involved and you’ll always know your messages are being routed directly to the major carriers rather than indirectly through multiple third parties.
Finally, having an extra link in the chain means someone is taking an additional slice of the message fee, inflating your pricing.
Q: What makes a SMS aggregator a great aggregator?
A: A SMS aggregator that has direct connections to all the top carriers, redundant systems to ensure message deliverability/reliability, an ability to quickly provision new short codes, proactive carrier monitoring (letting you know when a carrier is having trouble), and a US-based support team that you can call directly 24/7/365 over the phone make for a great aggregator.
Q: In your opinion, what makes Vibes a great Tier-1 SMS aggregator?
A: That’s simple: Vibes provides the most robust and reliable SMS/MMS connectivity in the market. Here are a few things we’re proud of as a bona-fide Tier-1 aggregator:
50+ US carrier connections including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, & US Cellular.
Our SMS uptime record in 2016, 2017, and 2018 is 100%. We leverage geo-redundant, active/active data centers to make sure our customers’ messages are delivered successfully.
It takes us generally 3-4 weeks to provision new short codes, while industry average is 8+ weeks.
8000 msgs/sec throughput.
Proactive carrier performance monitoring.
Access to mobile disconnect files.
24/7/365 Vibes-employed, award-winning, white-glove customer support.
Working with a Tier-1 SMS aggregator does make a difference, so demand it when working with a mobile marketing provider. Start your SMS aggregation with Vibes today!
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