Safaricom Blocking International Bulk SMS

Bulk SMS solution providers in Kenya have been dealt a blow after Safaricom decided to block every incoming SMS terminating with a modified foreign alphanumeric code to its subscribers. Their position is that any bulk SMS purchased away from them will be blocked from terminating to its subscribers.

“We have simply tightened our internal controls to ensure total compliance with inter-connect agreements for the exchange of voice and SMS traffic.” Nzioka Waita, Corporate Affairs Director, Safaricom told HumanIPO.
The story is that bulk SMS solution providers who have purchased their services away from Safaricom since last week have not been able to deliver their messages to Safaricom subscribers. Asked to comment about what this means to businesses, David Ngugi of 6ix Degrees told HumanIPO that while there was a valid reason to do so, the lack of timely communication to users of the service defied business ethics.
“For them to wake up one day and change terms on the fly is a monopolistic tendency illustrated by the fact that the only other option is to use their expensive bulk SMS offering.” David added.
6ixDegrees, a mobile phone contact backup system intends to launch in two weeks time after a successful testing period. They will rely on SMS to deliver product information to consumers. With the new rule, service delivery will be undermined since 6ixDegrees will have to change the ID of the SMS to an unknown foreign number which David terms it as bad for customer psychology.
Why businesses won’t bend-over to new rules easily? Getting 100, 000 from an international SMS provider will get you a rate of Kshs 0.3 for each SMS. About 30 million SMS are the minimum PRS providers need to get the same rate from Safaricom. And, the ordinary guy (6ix Degrees) will still contend with a mark up from PRS providers.
A number of international SMS providers have technology that can modify alphanumeric sender IDS (SMS Spoofing). For instance, NTV at one time sent out this promotion message to subscribers
Sender ID: NTV
Message: SMS NTV to 5656 and for your chance to win 1 million every week!! The more you SMS; the higher your chances of winning! SMS costs 25/=. Helpdesk 0750994634
The message above shows the recipients ID as NTV meaning that the SMS code has been modified. A modified alphanumeric code is easily subject to misuse. Any person can maliciously use the ID (NTV) to send out fake promotional messages. The action by the Mobile operator will reassure consumers in the wake of multiple SMS scams in Kenya’s SMS space.
An Example from South Africa
In 2010, Vodacom in South Africa set rules that blocked all incoming SMS traffic with modified alphanumeric sender IDS. They set a control that required registration of all sender IDS.
Safaricom is likely to take the same steps by requiring that their Premium Rate Services (PRS) providers register every active sender ID.
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