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Unified Communications: Adding SMS to the Asterisk Toolkit

As we roll into September, the VoIP landscape continues to evolve. For various reasons, SMS functionality has become a must-have with many VoIP deployments. What we’ve observed lately is that many businesses and professional offices now assume that all phone numbers are SMS-enabled which means, if your primary phone numbers don’t support SMS, you may miss important notices and reminders. Particularly in this COVID era, physicians have incredibly high rates of no-shows for appointments so you’ll typically get multiple SMS messages to multiple numbers beginning several days before an appointment. And, believe it or not, there are many locations where a cellphone lacks service but VoIP is alive and well.

The gap we want to close today is to enable SMS on your Incredible PBX® platform and its critical extensions. It’s also a good time to determine whether your existing SIP phones include SMS support so that notifications can be delivered to the desktop PC and phone in a reliable and timely manner. The good news is you don’t need to mortgage your house with a BroadWorks Instant Message and Presence (IM&P) subscription in order to implement SMS messaging on Asterisk® and FreePBX® platforms. SMS VoIP implementations typically cost less than a penny a message. While that’s not as inexpensive as many cellular services, it won’t break the bank either.

While we’ve all grown accustomed to SMS messaging on our smartphones, SMS and MMS messaging in the VoIP sphere is a different beast because there’s little uniformity in the way messages are sent and delivered. Proprietary messaging unfortunately is the rule rather than the exception. So today we’ll offer several VoIP provider alternatives. If you’re new to all of this, here’s the bottom line. SMS messages are delivered to VoIP trunks or DIDs. SMS messages are sent from VoIP extensions or users. Thus, it becomes the job of the PBX platform to map DIDs to extensions and to map extensions to DIDs in order to reliably send and receive SMS and MMS messages.

Our personal favorite for SMS messaging with Incredible PBX is the Clearly IP offering coupled with the Incredible PBX SIP Trunking platform because of its seamless integration with FreePBX and its User Control Panel as well as the Clearly Anywhere softphone. Once deployed, you can send and retrieve messages from your desktop PC by logging into the User Control Panel or simply calling up the Clearly IP softphone on your smartphone or desktop PC. Complete deployment tutorial is available in the Incredible PBX Wiki.

A close second place goes to VoIP.ms with their extremely flexible SMS/MMS offering which lets you redirect incoming messages to your email address, another SMS number, an SMS SIP account on VoIP.ms, and the VoIP.ms SMS/MMS Portal. We have previously documented and recently updated the Incredible PBX setup procedure to both receive and send messages as well as to deliver the messages to SMS-enabled SIP phones. Email replies to incoming SMS messages are automatically delivered to the original sender. And, of course, SMS replies on your SMS-enabled SIP phone also are delivered to the original sender. Complete Incredible PBX deployment takes only a few minutes.

A third alternative for messaging is our Platinum Partner, Skyetel. As with VoIP.ms, we previously have documented the setup procedure so we won’t repeat it here. The complete deployment tutorial is available here.

Finally, we would direct your attention to the BulkVS messaging tutorial on the VoIP-info.org Forum. It will walk you through the setup procedure using that provider.

Originally published: Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Need help with Asterisk? Visit the VoIP-info Forum.


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