Author: Akis Chatzimeletiou
Date: 23/11/2020

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SMS Basics: What’s the Difference Between A2P and P2P Messaging? 

When the first SMS was sent on December 3rd, 1992, bearing the message “Merry Christmas,” it was not yet clear what impact the technology would eventually have on global markets and communications technologies. In fact, strange as it may seem by today’s standards, which hold messaging in such high regard, the early days of SMS were deeply unglamorous. 

Initially a tool used by mobile operators to update subscribers about network issues, SMS was not originally intended to be a two-way means of communication between consumers. This concept evolved slowly, over the course of a decade; and mostly by accident. 

While consumer-to-consumer messaging always had its champions, sending a text was nevertheless such a painstaking process that most people continued to opt for email, or good ol’ fashioned voice, to stay connected. Indeed, the catalyzing event that led to the recent meteoric rise in SMS messaging was the advent of the smartphone. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is that smartphones ditched the old T9 keypad in favor of touch screens and QWERTY layouts. But let’s put a bookmark here; this is a topic for a later date.  

Today, we turn our attention to application-to-person (A2P) and person-to-person (P2P) messaging. Here’s what we’ll be addressing: 

  • What is SMS? 
  • Why is SMS important? 
  • What is A2P messaging? 
  • What are the benefits of A2P messaging? 
  • What is P2P messaging? 
  • What are the benefits of P2P messaging? 
What is SMS? 

SMS is a text messaging service that comes standard with most telephone systems. It leverages standardized communication protocols to enable mobile device users to exchange short, 160-character text messages over cellular networks. Along the same lines, MMS, or Multimedia Messaging Service, enables SMS users to send multimedia content like images, audio, and visual files. Wireless data plans, and therefore wireless carriers, are required to send both SMS and MMS messages. 

(For those wondering, no, there is no difference between text messaging and SMS.) 

Why is SMS important? 

The virtues of SMS from a consumer perspective are obvious — immediate, convenient, and affordable communications with friends and family. But it’s also fast becoming an essential communication and customer engagement tool for businesses. 

As we touched on in our previous blog post, SMS is a highly efficient means of reaching out to customers, with open rates as high as 98%. This is good enough for Juniper Research to predict a 7% rise in year-over-year enterprise SMS usage in 2020 — despite the economic impacts of coronavirus. Not bad. 

Indeed, SMS is a versatile, robust tool that businesses can leverage in a variety of ways. It can be used to contact anybody, anywhere; it’s easy to use, with a largely consistent user experience across operators, operating systems, and countries; it’s cheap, and therefore widely accessible; and it boasts the highest open rates of any customer engagement tool, easily surpassing email. 

What is A2P messaging? 

A2P, or application-to-person, refers to messaging traffic where a person receives a message from an application. Common deployments of A2P include marketing messages (adds, promotions, etc), appointment reminders, chatbots and virtual assistants, etc. 

While A2P is subject to various local- and country-specific regulations, it’s nevertheless become a valuable tool for businesses across the globe. Moreover, it’s useful for organizations from a wide range of vertices: 

  • In commerce, boutiques can send their loyalty customers alerts on flash sales or special discounts 
  • In healthcare, hospitals can send out appointment reminders or critical health guidance 
  • In entertainment, concert organizers can send e-tickets and updates about line-up changes 

The list goes on! 

What are the benefits of A2P messaging? 

A2P is more effective than email. In fact, according to Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s latest report on the Future of Messaging, 98% of text messages are read, compared to 30% of emails. Or, to conceptualize it a bit differently, only 2% of text messages go unread, compared to 70% of emails. 

A2P is cost-effective. Sending an SMS is cheap, making A2P one of the most affordable ways to communicate with customers and consumers. 

A2P is flexible. It can reach people all over the world, with bespoke messaging tailored to specific customer profiles. 

What is P2P messaging? 

Then there’s person-to-person messaging, a two-way text communication tool that facilitates back-and-forth conversation between human beings — friends, colleagues, customer support agents, etc. It’s what most people mean when they say “texting.” 

What are the benefits of P2P messaging? 

The key benefit to P2P messaging is customization. It offers a personalized approach to customer outreach, helping organizations rid themselves of that cold, faceless (i.e. corporate) feel. Indeed, P2P messaging makes businesses more approachable by allowing them to demonstrate their personality and cultivate a coherent corporate identity. 

This personalization can help businesses with: 

  • Engagement: P2P helps organizations show off their identity while communicating with audiences in a more personalized and engaging manner. 
  • Differentiation: Along the same lines, customized communications facilitated by P2P messaging enables businesses to stand out from their competitors. 
  • Trust and credibility: P2P messaging gives organizations that elusive “extra human touch” that’s essential to creating lasting relationships. 
About Internet Mobile Communications (IMC)  

Trading under the Bank of Telecom brand, IMC provides a rich portfolio of voice, SMS, data, and international settlement services to the global carrier community. IMC developed, owns, and operates the Bank of Telecom, which carries billions of international minutes each year, across hundreds of routes from 1,600+ carrier interconnects in 130+ markets.