What Is an SMS Gateway?

An SMS Gateway enables you to send text messages to mobile phones all around the world. To integrate this functionality into your application, you (or your developers) should implement communication with a SMS API.

An SMS Gateway is a joining point between an organization’s internal systems and the mobile networks, letting you send out SMS messages from your business without needing to type them into a mobile phone ­– in fact, without a mobile connection at all. Around 96% of business text messages today are sent by a software application rather than a human.

While SMS may be a long-established technology, the technology in a modern SMS Gateway is state-of-the-art. SMS Gateways started as actual pieces of hardware, but today it’s all done in software: feature-rich, adaptable, and upgradable. Which gives you terrific flexibility and scalability, whether you’re sending simple updates to a small team or mass-customized marketing messages to a million.

What Are SMS Gateway Features?

An SMS Gateway is just what it sounds like – an “entrance and exit” that connects your business systems to the mobile networks, distinct from both. (Think of an on-ramp between local roads and highways.) A gateway is needed because the “language” a mobile network uses – its devices, its configuration, its approach to the way it does things – isn’t the same as your local computer network; without a gateway, the two couldn’t work together. There are several advantages.


Notably, an SMS Gateway means your business doesn’t need mobile devices like SIM cards or cellular routers to send text messages out – many SMS Gateways are in the cloud, meaning your messages (updates, confirmations, One Time Passwords, or marketing campaigns) can be composed at your desk, customized and personalized, then scheduled and sent the same way as your CRM emails.


Like all network technologies, SMS Gateways use a “protocol” (set of standard instructions) to ensure both sides understand each other. Today, most networks use SMPP, or Short Message Peer-to-Peer. SMPP is a published standard, meaning anyone can use it, and many companies do so. This gives you a choice of how to implement your SMS strategy – it lets you route messages through a third-party provider who “bulk buys” capacity on mobile networks for resale (called an SMSC, or Short Message Service Center) or directly with the mobile networks themselves (dubbed ESMEs, or External Short Message Entities.)

Which you choose depends on the scale of your communications. If you’re sending billions of SMS messages a year in a single country (rare, but not unknown) you’ll often be better off contracting directly with a major telco. At a smaller scale, for more flexibility (for example, if you deal with many countries) it’s easier to go with an SMSC. (Some marketers even have SMSCs inhouse.)

SMS Gateway vs SMS API

Note an SMS Gateway isn’t the same as an SMS API – these two technologies work together. Your API is how you connect to the SMS Gateway; the SMS Gateway connects to the mobile carriers using SMPP. Many providers offer the whole tech stack as an integrated service, making it easy for you to set up and use.

What Are the Benefits of an SMS Gateway?

  • A global audience. Using SMS Gateway gives you access to essentially every mobile phone on the planet, as long as its user has opted-in to your communications.

  • The simplicity of SMS messaging. SMS is the most widespread messaging channel out there, used by nearly everyone.

  • Economical cost. SMS Gateway provision is a competitive market, with low bulk prices for SMS messages letting you communicate with that global audience at low cost.

  • High open and readership rates. With 98% of text messages being opened within three minutes, and mobile phones typically kept within arm’s length of a user at all times (think of where your phone is now) using an SMS Gateway in your marketing mix means greater customer engagement.

  • Up-to-the-minute communication. SMS messaging is a real-time channel, making it great for time-sensitive information like flight updates and time-limited special offers. And the core technology behind SMS makes it easy to check if a message was delivered successfully.

  • Cloud-based user interfaces. It’s easy for non-technical users to make use of an SMS Gateway; most are in the cloud, accessible through a user-friendly desktop interface that lets you manage and control your campaigns.

So that’s SMS Gateway: a seamless link between your inhouse software applications and the world’s mobile networks, ready to convey your messages to mobile phones all around the world. See also: SMS API in this Glossary, and our own SMS Gateway offer here.

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