How to Create a Premium SMS Service

The first mobile phone went on the market in 1983.
The first mobile phone went on the market in 1983. (Image: Black smartphone isolated on the white background image by Elnur from

Premium SMS services charge customers to send text messages or receive content: for example, to vote in a contest or to receive horoscopes for a subscription fee. To create a premium SMS service, you could apply to carriers individually but each carrier's rules and requirements are slightly different. For example, some carriers require a well-advertised toll-free number on your web site. Carriers are also strict about who is allowed to send premium SMS messages across their networks. SMS aggregators provide scale, reliability, a unified application process and access to multiple carriers, which can be upwards of 600 including international.

Things You'll Need

  • PC or laptop with Internet connection
  • Web server
  • Database

Set up the architecture for your service. You need a web server to host a user sign-up web page and to communicate with the aggregator using a variety of protocols. The aggregator then communicates with each individual carrier's SMS center to send and receive your messages. You also need a database to store user data.

Choose an aggregator. There are two basic types of aggregators: those intended for smaller companies and those for companies with high volumes. The smaller volume aggregators, such as Clickatell, usually charge only for messages sent and received with no set-up fee. Some offer a number of free credits upon sign-up that you can use for testing. The higher volume companies generally charge a monthly service fee, which can be several thousand dollars, regardless of whether you send any messages. However, the per-message fee can be considerably lower, especially in batches approaching a million.

Sign up for the aggregator’s developer account and download the software development kit. Many aggregators offer these for free.

Use the provided APIs, such as batch sending. Most aggregators provide a batching mechanism that allows you to send a message to a large number of people with just one API invocation.

Test your premium SMS service. You can test the outbound portion with a free account, but you need to lease a phone line from your aggregator to test the incoming SMS portion.

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