SMS vs SMTP Text Message Delivery


We recently released an article about the major differences between SMS messages and MMS messages. In keeping with the same theme of defining terminology of text message marketing, this post will touch on the major differences between 2 types of delivery for text messages: true SMS (SMPP) vs SMTP. Both are protocols used in defining how a text message is delivered.

What is the SMTP Protocol?

“SMTP” stands for simple mail transport protocol and is the protocol used when sending email. It was first developed in 1992 as the method of delivery for email messages and is still used today for the same purpose. The wireless carriers have provided the ability for each cell phone to have an associated email address with it in the format of:

(10 digit phone number)@(carrier domain)

For example, an AT&T customer could use SMTP to send an email to their phone as a text message, email to SMS, by sending it to:

In comparison, this is sometimes different for SMS and MMS messages. Of course, some companies see this as a cheap alternative to sending text messages to phones. More information will be provided later in the article about why SMTP vs SMS isn’t necessarily a good option for text messaging, especially text message marketing. Check out other text marketing tips for more information.

What is True SMS (The SMPP Protocol)?

The SMPP protocol is the “true SMS” protocol and is developed by the telecommunications industry specifically for transmitting SMS messages. “SMPP” stands for short message peer-to-peer protocol and is the protocol used whenever a text message is sent from a mobile phone to another mobile phone. SMPP has numerous advantages, in comparison to SMTP, when using it as a method for mobile marketing.

Disadvantages of SMTP Protocol

While there may be an appeal to using the SMTP vs SMS protocol as the transport for text messages, there are several disadvantages that make it not-so-glamorous. While it is true that the only costs involved with SMTP is bandwidth and the time taken to update the carriers’ domains periodically, the disadvantages outweigh the costs. The disadvantages of SMTP are as follows:

  • Delivery- Messages using SMPP have direct connectivity to the wireless carrier networks and therefore have the priority when being sent. SMTP messages use the email networks and therefore do not have the priority that an SMPP message does. Emails have a higher failure rate, leading to a possibility of a high rate of undeliverable text messages, a huge disadvantage if using it for text message marketing. In comparison, the SMPP protocol is far faster at delivering the messages. SMTP is rather slow in their delivery. Timely delivery for SMS marketing is critical, see some uses for group text messaging. If you are sending out a lunch special and it isn’t delivered until 9 pm it doesn’t do you any good.
  • Changing of email domains- Email carriers will often change their email domains for the purpose of preventing the SMTP protocol being used as a text messaging platform. If using SMTP and a carrier decides to change their email domain, all of a sudden you have messages that aren’t being delivered until you can update the domains of the carriers.
  • Two-way communication capabilities- SMPP provides full 2 way communications between phones and applications. SMTP does not provide that ability.
  • Carrier regulations- The true SMS protocol was developed by the telecommunications industry specifically for text messaging. In contrast, the SMTP protocol was never meant for that. Because messages sent through short code and the SMPP protocol are regulated by the wireless carriers, all the necessary regulation is in place. SMTP is not regulated by the wireless carriers or Mobile Marketing Association and does not have the regulation like short code and SMPP do. The use of SMTP is a loophole in the carrier regulations.

When comparing SMS versus SMTP and selecting a text message provider, it would be in your best interest to choose a provider that offers the true SMS protocol as their delivery method. It will save headaches in the long run if you don’t have to worry about all the disadvantages of SMTP. If you have questions regarding the SMS vs SMTP protocols, please contact TXT180, we will be happy to assist you.

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