Are Grey Routes & SIM Farms destroying customer trust?

Topic: Education

When budgets are tight, cheaper bulk SMS send rates may seem attractive – but businesses who use them can end up wasting time and money and damaging their brand in the process. 

Consumer noise is at an all-time high and businesses need to work harder than ever to engage and build customer trust. Low cost grey routing and SIM farms may look like a good business bet in theory, but can damage the relationships you have worked so hard to build and maintain.

Grey routing and SIM farms are questionably legal and can prove to be extremely bad for business.

Business SMS messages sent via a grey route are cheaper but typically come without any important KPI guarantees such as timing, proof of receipt or speed of delivery. Given the current heightened cyber threat environment, their lack of data security assurance also poses a serious corporate and reputational risk.   

Aside from them posing a real customer service problem, you could end up simply wasting the time and money you’ve spent – while compromising your customer relationships and brand credibility in the process.

What Are Grey Routes?

Business SMS traffic, or A2P (application-to-person) traffic is usually sent in compliance with host network protocols. If A2P messages are routed internationally through channels that don’t share a wholesale roaming agreement, hosts are not compensated for their services and there is little oversight in terms of either message security or quality control.

Grey routes (as opposed to direct or white routes) confuse telecommunication networks by bouncing messages between numerous networks during the sender and recipient journey to mask the origin of the message. Here’s how it works in practice; a message originates in the UK and is destined for a recipient – again in the UK. However, instead of being sent directly from the sender carrier to the receiver carrier, it is transmitted through other overseas networks across the globe to eventually be delivered back into the UK at a reduced cost to the sender.

While using Grey Routes may not be technically illegal, it is unethical as it means the sender avoids paying interconnection fees between the relevant networks. Grey routing exploits a service that was originally designed for travellers to use their phones freely when overseas and was never intended for business use or for bulk messaging.

Business SMS quote seem too good to be true? It probably is

Grey Routes and SIM farms seem competitive, particularly when compared to a quotation from a supplier that compensates providers and uses direct routes. But there are some clear chinks in their armoury that could see you wasting the time and money you have spent – and damaging your reputation and alienating the very customers you want to communicate with in the first place.

Compromising customers & data

Grey routes, from an information security perspective, are a massive liability. Customer information is not safe and message content can be accessed, read, copied, or altered. This makes Grey routed SMS messages extremely vulnerable to malicious content and means that you are running a very real risk of exposing recipients – i.e., your customers – to completely unnecessary risk, while damaging your brand credibility into the bargain.

Send receipt & speed is an issue 

Messages sent via grey routes can stall and be delayed; they can also get lost and never reach their intended recipient. There is a complete lack of traceability and ultimately no way of knowing as the business sender, whether your message has ever been received as there are no delivery receipts.

Several technologies are available to identify and eliminate grey routes. The latest technology detects grey route SMS through real time analysis of messages passing through the network. The technology not only detects spam, but also monitor messaging patterns, trends, etc.

As grey routes equate to significant revenue leakage for carriers, they are shut down by host networks as soon as they are identified so messages in this case, will simply be lost without trace.

The growth of SIM farms       

A SIM card is the chip that gives a mobile device an identity on a mobile network, allowing it to be controlled through that network (to trigger calls, text, and data). The SIM also stores information relating to contacts, phone numbers and, more importantly, network authorisation.

A farm groups SIM cards together and connects them via a GSM modem to computer servers to create a bulk messaging service. These servers can be programmed to automatically dial numbers and send the same text message to thousands of people. The same system can also send pre-recorded messages automatically. The SIM farm uses consumer-grade SIMs, which increasingly offer ‘unlimited’ free texts or minutes within a modified pay-as-you-go model. These farms offer cheap per-message rates with little regard for legality or ethics.

Why choose direct or white routes?

By choosing a company like Esendex that exclusively partners with direct route telecommunication providers to deliver your messages, you benefit from:

  • Security assurance and customer safeguarding from spam and malicious content. 
  • Guaranteed speed and scale of delivery
  • Reliability and genuine sender IDs
  • Avoidance of duplicate messages.

Like to know more?

Our guide to grey routing explains what’s meant by direct connections, the role of aggregators and how grey routes can have a negative impact on brand credibility and customer security.

Author Avatar
Mary Henry

Brand & Communications Manager. Email: [email protected]