Air2Web is avoidable

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2011-06-02

An application I've been working on sends random challenge tokens by SMS to confirm certain user actions. My client had an account with Way2SMS already, so I used their simple HTTP API to send out the tokens. Later, we discovered that messages to some networks were delayed by fifteen minutes or more, and we decided to find a backup provider. I relayed a friend's recommendation of Air2Web to my client, and they signed up for the starter package.

They got our account set up quickly, and I sent myself a message through their HTTP API (which, like Way2SMS, was just a URL which took the phone number and message as query parameters). The message never arrived, so I wrote to "aircare" to complain. They replied promptly that my number was on the Do-not-call registry, so they would not deliver messages to it.

I explained that we were sending transactional messages to people with whom we already had a financial relationship, and that we would never send any unsolicited or marketing messages. They replied the next day saying that they had made "some changes", and asked me to try again. I did, and it worked. Satisfied, I put aside the SMS code to work on more important things.

Some weeks passed.

When I got around to the SMS code again, I sent another message to my own number. It didn't arrive, so I wrote to Air2Web again. Once again, they replied promptly that my number was on the do-not-call registry. I pointed out that I had been through exactly the same rigmarole a few weeks earlier, when they had changed something to allow me to deliver messages. A week has passed since then, and I have sent two followup enquiries, but I have not received a response from Air2Web.

I can only assume their silence means that they don't want to do business with me, and are too unprofessional to say so. At least I know better now than to recommend them to anyone else.

Speculative diagnosis

I was discussing this with my friend Pooja yesterday, and it suddenly occurred to us that the simplest explanation for the behaviour was that they had just deleted my phone number from their local cache of the NDNC registry database. When they next reloaded the database (which they are supposed to do after every forty-five days or so), my number reappeared and deliveries to it were blocked again.

If that's true, they're much more shady than just refusing to answer inconvenient questions from customers. Alas, it's unlikely that I will find out the truth in this case, but I'm not planning to waste any more time with them, and I hope this post will be useful to other people who are considering them as a provider.