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Cost optimisation of A2P SMS delivery – The basics

Lucian Gheorghe

3 min read
Woman reading on her smartphone with an infographic about a2p sms delivery cost optimization beside her.

Despite not offering an A2P SMS termination service, TMT ID is nevertheless closely connected to the SMS industry. Every month we help route billions of SMS messages for our customers using the fastest and most accurate technology and data available.

Over many years working in telecommunications technology I have found that companies who perform best are companies that calculate where and how to optimise the least cost for SMS termination. For me, this is not just a decision for the commercial teams within businesses, but a technical one too. Too many times I’ve witnessed engineers simply asking their procurement teams for a “HLR lookup” for their SMS delivery, without actually thinking about whether or not they need a HLR service or looking at each market or destination they send SMS to.

Let’s suppose you’re running an SMS business and you have traffic to multiple countries – in each country, you have different connections and/or suppliers that can terminate the messages locally for you. You will find yourself in a few possible situations

  1. A destination country for your text messages doesn’t have number portability (there are still many countries where MNP is not implemented) and your connections/suppliers charge you for delivered SMS.

In this case, all you need to do to ensure the correct routing of SMS is to have a good numbering plan look-up before sending the message down your routes. You will need to know if the number is valid if it’s been allocated by the regulator to a Telco provider and which number type it is. If it’s a valid mobile number allocated to a Mobile Network Operator, you can send the SMS message to that number.

This is the least expensive type of query you can do, and the situation described doesn’t justify doing a “HLR lookup”. However, numbering plans and regulator allocations can be dynamic and can be affected by Merger and Acquisitions between operators which may make it even harder to maintain.

To help our SMS Business customers, we created a product called TeleShield, which, in its standard flavour, checks if a number is assigned by the regulator to which operator, if it has the correct length, and which number type it is (e.g. you may not want to send SMS to landlines).

  1. A destination country for your text messages has number portability and your connections/suppliers charge you for delivered SMS.

For this case, I’ve seen many engineers asking for a “HLR lookup” which in this case is not needed. For a simple SMS delivery, you do not need to pay more for the subscriber status information.

The least expensive way to optimally route those SMS messages is to do a “Number Portability Lookup”. Typically, you need to do a lookup of the number in the portability database and if it’s not ported, you need to look up the numbering plan of the country. In some countries, you need to query a third party for the information (e.g. access to the number portability database is by query only) or even ask the Operators directly (via different types of interconnects).

To help our SMS Business customers, we created a product called Velocity (because its very fast and handles billions of numbers globally). In Velocity, we have what we call ON-Net destinations and OFF-Net destinations. For On-net (where we have a synced copy of the database), we look up the database and the numbering plan in less than 2.5 milliseconds from the edge of our global network nodes. For off-net countries where we have to query the database provider or MNOs, there is about a 1ms additional delay to this, but still super fast!

  1. A destination for your text messages where you get charged by your downstream routes for sending all messages.

Regardless of if that country has number portability or not, you may find out that users change their phone number quite often and you get charged a lot of money for valid numbers that are not active anymore.

This is the real use-case of a “HLR lookup”, where the goal is to determine if there’s a subscriber connected to that number or not. This can only be done by interrogating the network itself. This is the most expensive type of query, and the one that takes the longest to solve.

To help our SMS Business customers, we created a product called Live. The query response of our LIVE service will return the current network and a subscriber status indication (if the number is present in its network).

To summarize, even if many in the industry refer to any look-up as an “HLR lookup”, you may not need them for all your destinations. You can use any of the types of queries below, depending on the specifics of the terminating country:

  • Numbering plan lookup – covered by TeleShield
  • MNP or NP lookup (which also includes numbering plan information) – covered by Velocity
  • “HLR lookup” or subscriber status lookup (which also includes MNP and numbering plan information) – covered by Live

Last updated on June 13, 2024


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What Our Customers Are Saying

"BTS (Business Telecommunications Services) is successfully using TMT’s Velocity and Live services to check the status of mobile numbers. This way we make sure we optimize the performance of the service offered to our customers and ensure the quality of terminating traffic to all countries.”

Business Telecommunications Services

"LATRO relies on TMT’s TeleShield to provide the most up to date and reliable numbering qualification information within our fraud reporting tools, enabling us to protect our customer’s revenues and empowering them to defend themselves against fraudulent numbers."


"TMT is a valued partner that enables us to manage our routing costs effectively. They proactively and continuously expand their operator and country coverage while delivering exceptional customer service. We can always count on them to achieve high-quality results and look forward to our continued collaboration."

Global Message Service

"TMT provides us with the most comprehensive numbering intelligence data through their fast and reliable Velocity and Live services. TMT is a trusted partner for us, their products ensure that we continue to optimise the best performance and service to our customers."

Global Voice

"TeleShield from TMT gives 42com the power to detect and target telephony fraud scams internationally, thereby protecting our company from the financial and customer experience impacts of telecommunications fraud."

Alberto Grunstein - CEO

"It has been a pleasure to work with the team at TMT. They have become an essential provider of accurate numbering data information and Number Portability services globally."

Luisa Sanchez - VP of SMS and Messaging Solutions, Identidad Technologies

"Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier uses TMT ID as one of their key suppliers for Mobile Number Portability Data services. Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier uses TMT ID’s Velocity MNP solution. This is an ultra-fast query service that optimises the routing of international voice calls and A2P messaging."

Deutsche Telekom Global Carrier

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