What Is An SMS Grey Route And why Is It detrimental?

What is an SMS grey route and why is it detrimental_featured image

While it may seem like a simple process on the surface, sending text messages is an intricate operation. Most of the time, it's a pretty secure and reliable process. However, there are ways to exploit SMS routes, one of which is grey routing.

What Is Grey Routing?

SMS grey routing is when an SMS (aka a text message) is sent through a legal channel initially, but at some point travels through illegal channels before reaching its destination. By sidestepping international SMS laws and fees, grey routing reduces the cost of sending messages. The name comes from the combination of white routing (legal SMS) and black routing (illegal SMS).

If you're not familiar with how SMS messages go from one person's phone to another, the concept of routing might seem like a foreign concept. It's pretty simple though, and works a lot like sending a package. If you're sending a package to someone within the same country, the path that package takes will be pretty straight forward. If you send it to another country, however, its journey will become much more complicated, because different countries have different shipping procedures, laws, and costs.

The same applies to sending a text message. When you send an international text message, it travels through several points of interconnectivity until it finally reaches its end destination. And since each country has its own regulations and fees surrounding SMS messages, sending one internationally will force it to process through these regulations and fees.

How Grey Routing Works

When you send a message normally, it goes from your network carrier to the corresponding operator  through a series of connections So when you send a message to someone in the same country as you, that message should reach the sender without ever leaving that country. Grey routing, however, would instead send that message through to another country with fewer regulations and then send it back to the person you were originally trying to message.

This may not sound like a big deal when you're talking about casual, peer to peer messaging - and, truthfully, it isn't. When you apply it to something like automated messages however, where massive amounts of messages are sent to a large number of people on a regular basis, you end up with a pretty big vulnerability in cellular networks.

Is It Illegal?

Grey routing itself is not technically illegal, though it definitely teeters on the edge of legality and bends a lot of rules. It exploits loopholes and avoids international laws that were set in place in order to make international SMS messaging possible and secure. It's a shady practice at best, and one that more and more telecom carriers are cracking down on. In fact, the amount of messages using grey routing is expected to drop from 65% in 2015 to just 19% in 2020.

The Disadvantages Of Grey Routing

Not only is grey routing barely legal at best, it's also a much less secure and reliable method to send messages. Which makes sense - when you avoid the regulations and costs of secure telecom providers, you are also missing out on the features and reliable services that they offer.

One of the most obvious disadvantages of grey routing is delays. Rather than a message arriving instantly, it could be several hours before your message makes it to a recipient. Grey also routing doesn't provide you with delivery routes or caller ID, making it difficult to track and monitor sent messages. There can also be text limits and unsupported characters with grey routing that will turn your initial message into nonsense. In addition the risk is low conversion rates and therefore additional operations costs of sending.

How To Know If You Are Using Grey Routing

Are you experiencing any of the disadvantages of grey routing, like delayed messages, no sender ID, etc. Or  does your cell provider have a rate that is suspiciously lower than other providers, they might be using grey routing to cut costs.

How Mobile Phone Networks Are Cracking Down On Grey Routes

In order to reduce this practice and ensure that consumers are getting the best SMS services possible, several of the major telecom networks are cracking down on the use of grey routes throughout the world. The primary way they do this is by testing suspect messages to see if they're travelling through grey routes and shutting down any messages that test positive.


While grey routing may seem like a solid way to cut costs on the surface, it's a questionable practice that is quickly becoming less and less possible. If you think that your provider might be using grey routing, consider switching to a more reliable carrier for your business's needs.

Get in touch to understand how JT’s 700 plus worldwide roaming and operator agreements provide direct connectivity and interworked agreements  to remove those risks associated with using grey routes,  providing enhanced conversion rates, operational efficiencies and effective, secure and affordable messaging solution for your business needs.

Contact our team to learn more about JT's secure routing and get a personalised quote. 

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