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University Emergency SMS service doesn’t deliver

Ah now you know how I’m forever going on about how Universities, Colleges, Schools and organisations need to implement emergency text services? Well, here’s a bit of news from the University of Connecticut. They’ve installed one such system (provided by emergency notification service, Reverse 911) and they did a test recently.

Predictably, some staff and students got the message immediately. Others had to wait hours — up to 3 hours — because of the creaking infrastructure serving the University.

Well I assume it’s the creaking infrastructure. It’s a piece of simplicity to whack 16,000 text messages through your gateway. Most API gateways will receive those texts at, what, 1,000 texts a second? Then the messages need to be queued into the relevant mobile network for delivery. Theoretically we’re talking seconds. But in reality… well… if your messages aren’t given high priority by the networks, you going to have to wait for ages for them all to be delivered. I’m not quite clear on the quality of the interconnects in America; nor the throughput quality at the cell phone towers serving the University. I wonder if this is something that the team at Reverse 911 can actually influence or whether it’s time for a big shrug and lots of prodding of the mobile networks?

Link: UConn Texting Test Falls Short —

The University of Connecticut is trying to work out the kinks in its new emergency text message alert system after a test of the system showed it took as long as three hours for messages to reach some students. Other students never received them.

Though the university has successfully set up a number of other ways to alert students to emergencies, the text message system may never work perfectly.


  1. I have found that with many gateway providers the throughput to be more like 100/second and some as low as 10/sec. So you have to factor in the source application to loop through the phone numbers and generate the XML string to pass to the API, then the gateway proivder to parse that and send to the relevant carriers and then for them to pass that onto the device. Also, here in the US the carriers are NOT reliable at all, Verizon being the worse offendor for undelivered messages.

  2. I can’t speak for this example, but here in the UK there are a number of large organisations who are planning on sending SMS and they come to the likes of us at iTAGG and many of our peers and basically ask for dirt cheap SMS routes. They are willing to push their SMS traffic through offshore gateways that are, to put it politely “totally unreliable”.

    At iTAGG when leads begin asking us to go close to the stupidly low price that they can get from these offshore routes we just say goodbye. Our rates are very competitive but there is a point where it is blindingly obvious that the lead doesn’t really want a reliable route and just wants cheap cheap cheap.

    As long as SMS and MMS aggregators like iTAGG and the many other good players stick to their guns and only offer high grade routes then big clients as above should have fewer and fewer problems with delivery success.


  3. My guess here is they are using one of the “free” open source SMS gateways. These are great sometimes and other times as unreliable as they come. It is sometimes bewildering to us that emergency alert companies choose to use the free gateway and not the carrier approved short codes to send out alerts. Yes it saves money, but test after test just shows it flat out doesn’t work. Go figure!


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