FrontlineSMS let users send, receive and manage SMS over a mobile network.

Cheapest/Simplest/Most Reliable solution for bulk in/out messaging

Hi! this is my first message on this wonderful community so CIAO!

I'm going to work with my organization (NZP+ and HAI) on a sms based system to collect data from the population about the availability of basic HIV/AIDS medicines in Zambia. The results will be then visualized online on a map.

The platforms we're considering are FrontlineSMS to manage mass send/receive of the messages and the collected data, then Ushahidi to implement the online mapping part.

Right now we're at the point where we would like to find the most reliable/simplest/cheapest way for us to bulk send/receive sms from Frontline.

here are the possible solutions we're considering:

1) On the receiving side we can have two mobile phones to send/receive the messages, whose service is provided by the two major operators in the country. This way the population would have the option to send the sms using its own operator instead of a different one, saving money. On the sending side we would pay the operators for each message sent, a solution which seems quite expensive.

2) On the receiving side same as 1) point
On the sending side we can subscribe to Clickatell or Intellisms in order to send the messages though the Internet, possibly saving money on our side.

3) On the receiving side use Clickatell or Intellisms to receive the messages On the sending side same as point 2)

The third solution seems to be the optimal one as it wouldn't require us to buy dedicated mobiles, and would plug into the existent network of our NGO without having them to suffer any other cost besides that of the Internet connection and Clickatell or Intellisms sms credit, but the main concern here is the following:

How much will a user pay to send an sms to our Clickatell or Intellisms account? Will it be cheaper or more expensive than messaging a number of their own operator? Is a mobile still going to be required even if we decide to go completely Internet based for sms send and receive (solution 3) )?

looking forward for your feedback

Thank you!

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Ciao, Claudio!

Nice to see you here...

Your question is quite complex, with many different parameters, but I'll try and give you the shortest, most concise answer.

On the incoming side, you'll need to check the Clickatell//IntelliSMS websites to see if they have a local number in Zambia which you could use to receive your messages. Obviously they'll have access points in the more 'popular' countries, but I don't know if Zambia is on their map, so-to-speak. If not, you can still use them for incoming messages but will need to use an international number (maybe a South African one), which then have cost issues for the sender. You also have to pay extra to use these services as incoming message hubs.

With sending, costs are generally cheaper going through online aggregators, and it's also much quicker. Again, there are price lists on the respective websites.

What you could do is use a combination, and have two devices attached to your computer - one for each network in the country - which people text in to, and then use Clickatell or IntelliSMS to send out any replies. You'll need the Internet for this, but you'll need that anyway if you want to have your messages synced with the Ushahidi server.

It all boils down to this. First, do you have a budget to pay extra to an online service to receive through them? Second, do they have a local number (access point) you can use? Third, if not will asking your 'users' to text an international number be a show stopper for them (since it will cost more)?

I hope some of that helps. I think the mixed approach will work best here, i.e. local devices with local numbers for incoming, and an online provider for outgoing.


Ciao Ken, thank you for you complete reply, we will follow your suggestion, using 2 mobiles to receive and intellisms to send (if needed).

It's worth noting that when you send cheaper SMS messages out through the on-line aggregator, you can put the "reply-to" number in the SMS to match one of your real phones so that people can easily reply!

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