Mobile Operators Lack Visibility Into Messaging Routes

In 2013, it is estimated that more than 300 billion spam messages were sent, with the average mobile user receiving at least one per day.

mobile and messaging

Three-quarters of mobile network operators lack visibility into two-thirds of application- to- person (A2P) messaging traffic due to illegal grey route traffic terminating its network, according to a survey of 25 mobile operators conducted by Tyntec and MobileSquared.

The main driver for mobile operators considering SMS firewall deployment is network security, anti-spam and fraud prevention, ahead of A2P messaging monetization opportunities. In 2013, it is estimated that more than 300 billion spam messages were sent, with the average mobile user receiving at least one per day.

Stefan Kuehne, director of carrier relations at Tyntec, told eWEEK there are no major security concerns, as a grey route is just a technical solution that senders devised to avoid having to pay.

"Therefore it's a business issue. It’s only the commercial agreement that is missing--and that's what defines a gray route," he said.

The majority of mobile operators are experiencing year-on-year A2P growth of between 6 percent and 36 percent, and more mobile operators have experienced A2P messaging traffic growth in the last 12 months (surveyed in Sep. 2015) compared to the same period in 2014, with 56 percent of mobile operators reporting an increase compared to 49 percent over the prior 12 months.

Less than 25 percent of mobile operators have deployed an SMS firewall since 2012, while grey routes account for two-thirds of A2P SMS traffic, meaning only one-third of A2P traffic can be monetized by mobile operators.

The most popular near-term monetization strategy identified by mobile operators is domestic and international A2P SMS, followed by phone number portability and verification information, Internet of things and M2M, and lastly, A2P messaging via operator-owned over the top (OTT) apps.

The report found mobile operators consider spamming the greatest threat to their networks, followed by spoofing, and virus distribution.

In addition, two-thirds of mobile operators using SMS firewalls reported a huge reduction in unauthorized messaging traffic, regardless of whether it was deployed within the last three years or not.

One-quarter of mobile operators claimed the deployment of an SMS firewall had improved the company’s revenues, while the same percentage stated that the SMS firewall had caused operational problems by blocking legitimate messaging traffic.

According to the report, the main criteria upon which mobile operators will base their selection for an SMS firewall solution are operational simplicity and firewall performance, followed by the total monetary cost, including initial investment and recurrent cost over the lifetime of the firewall, and total cost—the total monetary cost and cost of internal effort for set-up and operation.

"The missing commercial agreement is the key problem with the grey routes, as these routes can be blocked by operators at any time. That's how some consumers get affected, when messages don't arrive even from enterprises and app brands with legitimate messages," Kuehne said. "Dumb blanket blocking, rather than smart filtering for illicit traffic only, is getting some consumers upset."