2018-05-03

Clickatell vs MessageBird vs Nexmo vs Plivo vs Tropo vs Twilio: outbound SMS pricing comparison

DISCLAIMER: I am not affiliated in any way to any of those companies. I'm an independent software developer. This article is based on pricing data collected on May 2018.

As I was looking for a provider to send SMS internationally from a web application (one-way), I was recommended a variety of services by friends and colleagues. My main concern was the pricing: which of them would offer me the cheapest rates in the most countries? Obviously the answer isn't that simple, so I decided to collect pricing information from major providers to compare. I tried including SMSGlobal in this comparison but they wouldn't provide me with a full list so I had to exclude them.

Methodology

There are three important pieces of information that you absolutely need to grasp before you continue reading this article:

• The prices I have collected do not include bulk discounts. Most, if not all providers offer such discounts if you talk to their sales department. The rates I have retained in my comparison are standard rates and have been collected off the provider's sites. In half the cases I had to obtain the list by talking to the sales department directly - I asked for standard rates for low volumes.

• Some providers offer a flat rate per country, while others offer different rates based on the destination carrier. In order to establish a comparison that would be as fair as possible, for those operators that have different rates per carrier I compared prices based on AVG/MIN/MAX: AVG being the average rate for all carriers combined, MIN being the rate of the cheapest carrier, and MAX being the rate of the most expensive carrier.

•  This article compares providers solely based on pricing. But keep in mind that the pricing isn't the only thing that matters to select a provider: delivery rates, reliability, customer support, API, documentation, etc. can be equally important.

Contenders

The contenders are: (listed in alphabetical order)

1) Clickatell: based in South Africa. Flat rates. Pricing sheet obtained from sales department on May 2nd, 2018. Prices were given in USD.

2) Messagebird: based in the Netherlands (Europe). Flat rates. Pricing sheet obtained from sales department on April 30th, 2018. Prices were given in USD.

3) Nexmo: originally based in France (Europe) but now owned by Vonage (USA). Flat rates. Pricing sheet obtained from sales department on May 1st, 2018. Prices were given in EUR, converted to USD based on EUR/USD exchange rate from XE.com on May 2nd, 2018.

4) Plivo: based in the USA. Carrier-dependent rates. Pricing sheet obtained from website on May 2nd, 2018. Prices given in USD.

5) Tropo: owned by Cisco, based in the USA. Carrier-dependent rates. Pricing sheet obtained from website on May 2nd, 2018. Prices given in USD.

6) Twilio: based in the USA. Carrier-dependent rates. Pricing sheet obtained from website on May 2nd, 2018. Prices given in USD.

I collected all data from these 6 providers and combined it into a single SQL table. I spent a good amount of time fixing the name of countries to get a coherent list - my apologies if any mistakes were made as I'm not an expert in geopolitics. I also deleted a few rare countries that were covered by only 1 provider. Then I built an Excel file and determined the provider that offers the cheapest rates for each country.

Results

The final Excel table looks like this (download link can be found at the bottom of the article):


The providers that offer the best rates are... *drum rolls*:


1. Messagebird (flat rates)
They offer the cheapest rates in:
• 134 countries if we look at flat or average carrier rates of competitors
• 122 countries if we look at flat or minimum carrier rates of competitors
• 137 countries if we look at flat or maximum carrier rates of competitors

2. Tropo (carrier-dependent rates)
They offer the cheapest rates in:
• 50 countries if we look at flat or average carrier rates of competitors
• 44 countries if we look at flat or minimum carrier rates of competitors
• 50 countries if we look at flat or maximum carrier rates of competitors

3. Clickatell (flat rates)
They offer the cheapest rates in:
• 23 countries if we look at flat or average carrier rates of competitors
• 20 countries if we look at flat or minimum carrier rates of competitors
• 23 countries if we look at flat or maximum carrier rates of competitors

4. Plivo (carrier-dependent rates)
They offer the cheapest rates in:
• 19 countries if we look at flat or average carrier rates of competitors
• 37 countries if we look at flat or minimum carrier rates of competitors
• 16 countries if we look at flat or maximum carrier rates of competitors

5. Twilio (carrier-dependent rates)
They offer the cheapest rates in:
• 2 countries if we look at flat or average carrier rates of competitors
• 8 countries if we look at flat or minimum carrier rates of competitors
• 2 countries if we look at flat or maximum carrier rates of competitors

6. Nexmo (flat rates)
They offer the cheapest rates in:
• 1 country if we look at flat or average carrier rates of competitors
• 1 country if we look at flat or minimum carrier rates of competitors
• 1 country if we look at flat or maximum carrier rates of competitors

Downloads

The Excel file with the full list of countries is available for download here

You can also download the source code for my script, the file contains:
• The original CSV/PDF/Excel files from providers with the rates
• Database dump with the SQL table containing properly imported and reformatted data
• The source code of my script. Bear in mind this script was written over 2 hours, I am publishing it for reasons of transparency, so please no judging of the dirty code (PHP 5.6).

If you notice any inconsistency in my data, script, or methodology please comment and I will do my best to make the necessary fixes.

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