What is an SMS gray route?

An A2P SMS gray route is designed to transmit SMS traffic but is less expensive (or free) because it does not fairly compensate the telecoms that facilitate it.


expected revenue leakage because of SMS grey routes


of mobile operators found not to have deployed a next-generation SMS firewall to protect business SMS messaging adequately

Source: Vox solutions

Is gray routing illegal?

SMS gray routes are considered a type of SMS fraud and are illegal in some territories. Even though they are not adequately monetized, telecoms still pay for signaling and network maintenance for this traffic. Telecoms cannot achieve their full revenue potential without closing SMS gray routes.

What do SMS route colors mean?

Apart from grey routes, there are also white routes and black routes.

The white route is where both the source and the destination support SMS traffic and generate revenue for the telecoms that facilitate it.

Black routes are usually illegal and do not provide revenue for either end of the route.

Direct vs. grey routes

Direct routes, which have agreements with telephone companies, are the most reliable way to send SMS messages. They offer security, high delivery rates, and legal compliance. However, they may have restrictions like sender and content registration, sending time limits, and content restrictions.

Grey routes, while cheaper, lack agreements with operators and may not comply with regulations. They can be unreliable and may even lead to legal issues.

What are the three types of gray routes?

  1. Telecom to Telecom: Telecom A has a roaming agreement with Telecom B overseas for P2P messages. The ratio of incoming and outgoing messages is usually 1:1, so neither telco charges the other for that traffic. Unfortunately, one telecom deliberately masks A2P traffic as P2P instead. It monetizes the traffic, while the other does not, also known as the leased global title (GT), addresses approach misuse in the industry.
  2. A2P Aggregators: Telecoms can avoid paying high roaming fees using local market A2P aggregators. In this type, Telecom A is using a local aggregator, which has better SMS rates than Telecom B, to deliver A2P traffic over SMPP routes. In doing so, Telecom A avoids paying the agreed price to Telecom B, and Telecom B ultimately suffers revenue loss.
  3. SIM Boxes: These devices use prepaid P2P SIM cards to terminate premium A2P traffic. Prepaid cards have an SMS price lower than direct A2P telecom prices or offer a certain number of free-of-charge messages in their kickoff package. The difference between those prices is where SIM box fraudsters make their margin.

What are the disadvantages of using SMS grey routes?

While grey routes may seem attractive because of their reduced cost, they come with significant risks and drawbacks that can ultimately be more costly in the long run.

These drawbacks include:

  • Non-compliance with data protection regulations: Grey routes may involve handling customer data in countries with weaker privacy laws, potentially leading to hefty fines.
  • Legal issues: Grey routes may not comply with communication laws in your target country, exposing you to legal risks and sanctions.
  • Poor deliverability: Messages sent via grey routes often have lower delivery rates, meaning your message may not reach its intended recipient.
  • Service failures: Grey routes are less reliable and may experience service disruptions, causing messages to be lost entirely.
  • Delays: Grey routes are known for slower delivery times, which can be detrimental for time-sensitive messages.
  • Limited features: Grey routes typically offer fewer features than legitimate routes, such as personalized sender IDs or scheduling options.
  • Lack of reporting: Grey routes often lack detailed delivery reports, making it difficult to assess the success of your campaign.

How to tell if a message went through a grey route?

Signs your SMS traffic may be using grey routes:

  • Price: Significantly lower message costs may indicate using grey routes.
  • Provider: Ask your SMS service provider if they use direct connections to mobile networks, as this ensures legitimate routing.
  • Delivery speed: Slow or inconsistent delivery times can indicate grey route usage.

What are some of the most effective ways to combat grey routes?

To combat grey routes effectively, the industry is shifting towards automated detection methods. These methods analyze various elements within a message to quickly identify and block messages originating from providers likely using grey routes. This advanced technology significantly improves the speed and accuracy of detecting grey route traffic compared to older manual methods.


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May 22nd, 2024
4 min read