Dr Pieter Streicher, BulkSMS.comDr Pieter Streicher, BulkSMS.com

The distinction between A2P and P2P messaging is not as straightforward as you might think and getting this wrong can be pretty disastrous for operators. Poor wording of the definition of A2P messaging in the initial interconnect agreements in South Africa resulted in the newly-licensed smaller operators being able to send hundreds of millions of A2P SMS messages for free.

One way of defining SMS messages is according to their intention. One could say that if the intention is for personal communication, then it is a P2P message. But if the intention is to sell or promote something, it is an A2P message. These definitions are problematic, because not all messages sent by companies via high volume SMS applications are to sell you something: think of dentist appointment reminders and the bank’s one-time passwords.

Fortunately, there are technical definitions of A2P vs P2P messages. They are defined according to their provenance – where they originate. All messages that do not originate from a valid mobile device with a valid SIM card are regarded as A2P messages (excluding only Call Me messages). Messages that do originate from a valid mobile device with a valid SIM card are regarded as P2P messages subject to certain traffi c limits setting the threshold of acceptable use. So if messages are sent via a mobile device, and that device sends in excess of 50 messages an hour, they are again classed as A2P messages.

Since operators will now pay more attention to the origin of messages (so they are able to bill for A2P messages) they will also be better equipped to deal with SMS spam, scams and fraud. SMS messages classed as A2P are also subject to a range of acts (including the ECT, CPA and POPI).

The network’s practice of defi ning SMS messaging technically is good news for businesses using SMS for operational and marketing communications. This means that industry standards and regulations for A2P messaging are in place and that all businesses have a level playing field from which to implement SMS messaging as a reliable channel to deliver timeous communications to customers, clients or suppliers.

About the author: Dr is the managing director of BulkSMS.com.