Most people tap the texting icon on their cell phone without giving much thought to how the technology that allows them to share information so easily actually works. But behind the scenes an SMS gateway is busy joining networks together so messages can be delivered seamlessly and instantly.

What is an SMS gateway?

First, let’s define what a “gateway” is in computer-speak. It’s a piece of networking hardware or software that allows data to flow from one telecommunications network to another.

An SMS gateway, therefore, allows a computer (aka server) to send or receive text messages in the form of Short Message Service (SMS) or Multimedia Message Service (MMS) between local and/or international telecommunications networks.

The SMS gateway translates the messages being sent from various technology sources and makes them compatible for delivery over the network so they can reach their recipients.

In most cases, the messages are routed to a mobile phone through a wireless carrier. Wireless carriers use SMS gateways to connect their SMS centers (SMSC) to text messaging applications like Zipwhip’s business texting platform.

What is an SMSC?

SMSC stands for Short Message Service Center. It’s the portion of a wireless telephone network that handles SMS operations, such as routing, forwarding and storing incoming text messages on the way to their final destination.

Why do messages need to be translated?

One problem of SMS messaging is that the SMSCs developed by different wireless carriers use their own communication protocol and most of these protocols are proprietary. You can think of a protocol as a spoken language. Each SMSC has its own language so a gateway that can translate multiple languages into one common language is needed for expediency.

As the diagram (without a gateway) below illustrates, this configuration would require the creators of the text message applications to write software code for each SMSC so the programs can communicate. This adds a layer of complexity to the process. The more SMSCs involved, the more software coding must be added to the text messaging application.

SMS without gateway

An SMS text messaging application connects with SMSCs without an SMS gateway.

SMS gateways solve a common problem

An SMS gateway solves the problem that occurs when wireless telephony operators use different communication protocols. The SMS gateway acts as a relay, translating a wireless service provider’s computer language into the language of the text messaging application. The gateway is placed between the application and the SMSCs, where it can translate one protocol into another.

If this translation didn’t take place, it would require additions to the text message application software for each SMSC to understand each other. The SMS gateway allows businesses to send texts without managing expensive infrastructure and multiple carrier connections. The texting service provider takes on that responsibility.

SMS Gateway

An SMS text messaging application connects to SMSCs through an SMS gateway.

In the past, SMS gateways were hardware devices but now it’s common for software to route SMS messages via an SMPP (Short Message Peer-to-Peer) interface. SMPP is a protocol for exchanging SMS messages between Short Message Service Centers (SMSCs).

SMS gateways enable faster P2P and A2P messaging

SMS gateways are used for person-to-person (P2P) and device-to-person (also known as application-to-person or A2P) communications. You can read about the advantages of A2P messaging and how businesses use it to communicate with customers on a larger scale.

Companies that text with customers rely on SMS gateways for fast, reliable communications. But there’s no need for an IT department to get involved. Business texting providers such as Zipwhip handle this backend technology for you. Learn more about business texting.

Improve your business’ customer communications with SMS

We see it in our research again and again—consumers prefer texts over phone calls and emails. It’s one of the easiest and most effective ways to improve customer engagement, increase sales and build a more scalable workflow.

To get started, download The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers e-book. This step-by-step guide to business texting includes everything you need to know from best practices and texting etiquette to how to build a subscriber list and market your new texting capability.

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