When is a Delivery Receipt NOT a Delivery Receipt? (a US Perspective)

“Hi…so, I just wanted to confirm that when I send my 1.2 million SMS messages tomorrow on my newly provisioned short code and fully compliant campaign, that I will be receiving delivery receipts, is that correct?”

“Oh yes, most definitely!”

“And those are delivery receipts confirming that my messages are successfully delivered?”

“Oh yes, most definitely!”

“So I needn’t worry about my customers not receiving my messages, as I will be getting a delivery receipt from their handset?”



Many mobile messaging providers may offer delivery receipts (also known as DRs or DLRs) but they do not differentiate between what is a ‘true’ DLR and a ‘limited’ DLR. The clarity in the current market is sometimes as clear as mud, so I would like to try and wipe some of that dirty brown stuff away and reveal what is underneath!

Not all delivery receipts are equal. A true DLR will confirm that your message has been successfully delivered to (and hence, received by) the mobile handset of the customer. In some circumstances, usually due to limitations within a mobile operator’s network, you will only ever get a “limited” DLR (more on this below). However, you can rest easy knowing that EVERYONE is in that same boat, if that is the case.

What is a limited DLR?

Depending on the number of connections between you and your customer’s handset, you may only receive a “limited delivery receipt” which could represent any or all stages of the path your SMS message will take. For example, a “limited” DLR may represent the hand-off of the SMS to a mobile operator, another supplier network, or to another SMS gateway. It might not represent true and actual delivery of the message to the handset.

There is black, there is white, and your DLRs may fall into the “gray” if you do not ask the right questions – and even then, you need to be able to decipher the response you get. Let’s take a look at some typical message originator paths (i.e. short codes, long codes) and how you can be misinformed about the nature of delivery receipts that you will get.

US Short Codes – With short codes in the US, in most cases you will receive a “true” delivery receipt. There is one US carrier that currently does not provide “true” DLRs, but this is being addressed by that carrier.

Key questions to ask of any mobile messaging provider:

  • Are you connected directly to all the Tier 1 and Tier 2 carriers in the US?
  • Do I get “true” DLRs from all other US carriers?
  • If not, which ones deliver only “limited” DLRs?

US Long Codes or Text-Enabled Landlines – Currently these 10 digit message originators do not have any true DLRs available, just like when you send a text message to a friend’s phone number. There is the potential for “limited” DLRs, however, which indicate that your message has been passed to the carrier network for delivery.

Key question to ask of any mobile messaging provider:

  • Which gateway(s) in the delivery path will I get my DLR from?

US Text-Enabled Toll-Free Numbers – In most cases, you will receive a “true” delivery receipt. There are a few US carriers that currently do not provide “true” DLRs, but this is in development by those carriers.

Key question to ask of any mobile messaging provider:

  • Will I receive handset DLRs from all carriers?
  • If not, which carriers will be sending “limited” DLRs?

Global Message Originators (short code / long code) – On a case-by-case, country-by-country basis, there may or may not be DLRs available.

Key question to ask of any mobile messaging provider:

  • How does your platform notify me when my message is delivered successfully to a non-US country, if I am sending it from the US?
  • Would these be handset DLRs or “limited” DLRs?

The Value of ‘limited DLRs’

So, if these DLRs are “limited,” are they worth anything at all?

Yes they are, for the following reasons:

  • Your mobile service provider is doing their most basic job!
  • Knowing that your message was received at a point along the delivery path to your customer’s handset gives you troubleshooting capabilities. This can be useful in addressing problems if you receive customer complaints about not receiving messages.

The Value of ‘true DLRs’

The pinnacle of DLRs, the “Golden Chalice”, “Le Grande Fromage!” These DLRs show the timeliness of reach and the robustness of your mobile service provider’s platform/gateway/systems.

In summary, ask questions and get your expectations set correctly. Do NOT be MISLED by jargon and misrepresentation. Above all, do not misunderstand the value and meaning of the respective DLRs.

There is an enormous value to all types of DLRs. Utilize them wisely for strategic planning and customer experience understanding, or to analyze your reach and troubleshoot responses.

OpenMarket’s Enterprise SMS gateway provides 99.99% uptime. We pride ourselves in our technical robustness and ability to work very closely with our customers and ensure that the correct expectations are always set, no matter what type of messaging campaigns you are creating.

If you want to know more, please talk with the mobile messaging industry experts about your SMS campaign requirements. We are here to help and advise you at any time!

Posted in: SMS