What Are the Biggest Threats to SMS Messaging?

POSTED BY Elisha Sudlow-Poole

While Juniper Research forecasts that SMS messaging will remain a dominant method of A2P communication over the next four years, and operators have begun investing in the security of their networks, it is vital to recognise that there are significant near and long-term threats that will limit the need for SMS in the business messaging space.

The Rise of OTT Messaging

In the near term, the migration of both P2P and A2P two-way traffic onto OTT messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, WeChat and Messenger will cause a decline in SMS traffic. Moreover, due to the volatile nature of SMS pricing, this gives rise to the use of OTT channels for business messaging as it provides a more consistent pricing model for both brands and CPaaS platforms.
Whilst the growth of OTT messaging traffic is significant, Juniper Research notes that these messaging apps will only be reserviced for engagement use cases and SMS messaging will be reservice for notification and authentication messages as brands are reluctant to move to OTTs for these use cases. Therefore, there will still be instances where SMS messaging will be a more attractive communication option for brands.

Flash Calling

SMS offers many compelling use cases including marketing, appointment reminders, and delivery confirmations. However, Juniper Research notes that the most prominent use case for A2P SMS is its authentication use cases. However, this method of authentication is not perfect as it requires the user to migrate away from the service that they are using in order to access the code and then manually enter it. Therefore, this adds a degree of friction which impacts the user experience.

Biometric Authentication

As SMS will be reserved for authentication and verification use cases such as OTPs and 2FA, a long-term threat to these SMS use cases is when password-less login becomes more mainstream. This will cause a decline in SMS traffic as authentication via messages will no longer be required as biometrics will be used instead.
This decrease in traffic will cause a decline in the prevalence of SMS fraud, as the less traffic means that fraud is more easily identifiable. Moreover, as biometrics are based on the profile of the end user, there is no content to corrupt nor mimic. However, whilst Juniper Research anticipates biometric authentication as a threat to SMS traffic, we anticipate that this will only become impactful from 2033. This will allow the devices and services supporting biometrics to become more mainstream in the messaging market.

GSMA’s Open API Gateway

At MWC (Mobile World Congress) in February 2023, the GSMA announced the launch of its Open Gateway API that involves strategic partnerships with over 21 leading network operators.
As the deployment of this open API will allow for the interconnection of operators to API developers, this will permit the utilisation of technology for services pertaining to identity and cybersecurity. Moreover, one of the initiatives launched alongside this universal network API included number verification.
Privacy and security have become a major concern for both enterprises and consumers as data leakages have become more frequent over the past five years. This means that all parties have become more cautious on what data is shared, and with who. Leveraging the GSMA’s open API will allow third-party authenticators to provide an advanced security service that remains up to date with the latest security measures and threats. In addition, it removes a large proportion of responsibility from the telecommunications industry, who have been typically moving slowly with new technologies in comparison to other industries.

Related Reading

Our complimentary whitepaper, How SMS Firewalls Are Maximising Operator Revenue in 2023, assesses the current pressures impacting the use of SMS for business messaging use cases, and how these pressures are being mitigated.
“Juniper Research’s latest SMS Firewalls research provides a comprehensive analysis on the SMS firewalls market, including its market trajectory and future deployment as part of a larger managed security strategy for operators. This report provides tailored recommendations for market stakeholders in the competitive landscape, including mobile operators, firewall service providers and messaging aggregators.”