Twilio Alternatives in 2021

Intro

Back in 2018 we have put together a blog post that focused on the Twilio best alternatives options for 2018, this is a follow up blog post to talk about alternatives you have at the beginning of 2019–2021.

Twilio continued to impress and grow in 2018 and continues to a good job marketing CPaaS(Communication Platform as a Service) APIs and SDKs to the developer community, we noticed some of the worth noting actions Twilio did in 2018:

  • Twilio rolling out turn-key contact center solutions such as Twilio Flex
  • Twilio Low-code / No Code Visual builder (Studio)

Acquisitions

Twilio acquiring SendGrid (press release)

In February 2015, Twilio acquired Authy, a Y Combinator-backed startup that offers two-factor authentication services to end users, developers and enterprises.[19]

In September 2016, Twilio acquired Tikal Technologies, the development team behind the Kurento WebRTC open source project, for $8.5 million.[20]

In February 2017, Twilio acquired Beepsend, a Swedish-based SMS messaging provider, for an undisclosed amount.[21]

In September 2018, Twilio announced they were acquiring Ytica, a Prague, Czech Republic-based speech analytics firm, for an undisclosed amount.[22]

In October 2018, Twilio announced they were acquiring SendGrid, a Denver, Colorado-based customer communication platform for transactional and marketing email, for $2 billion.[23]

In November 2018, Twilio reported acquiring Core Network Dynamics GmbH, a Berlin, Germany-based virtual EPC (Evolved Packet Core) specialist company.[24]

In July 2020, Twilio announced they had acquired Electric Imp, an Internet of Things platform company, for an undisclosed amount.[25]

In October 2020, Twilio acquired Segment, for $3.2 Billion.[26]

In May 2021, Twilio announced that they were acquiring Zipwhip, a toll-free messaging services provider, for $850 million.[27]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilio

Many businesses apps and services still relay on Twilio as of today, such as smart cars management with programmable wireless, ride-sharing apps like Uber, features like two-step verification when accessing our emails and web pages are mostly powered by CPaaS APIs like Twilio.

The Twilio Problem

In fact this is a general concern commercial hosted CPaaS providers.

I have spoken to so many Twilio customers from enterprise to developers. The goal was to find out how they use it and why they want to badly migrate out of these platforms.Almost in every discussion, two things always came up. First, Twilio starts affordable but when the customer traffic starts to grow, they start feeling furious to migrate out of the platform to save a considerable amount of money every month.

Second, developers and enterprises that bet their business model on top Twilio APIs start getting a direct competition from Twilio, with products like Twilio Flex! The community I met with also thinks this is the start only for Twilio to start competing directly with service providers and enterprise businesses that trusted the company.

Almost every CPaaS provider out there is competing in the market by either slightly better pricing, SLA, etc.. and trying to win the developers attention to win the API stickiness into their apps, and win the traffic, however even by end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 none of the existing CPaaS providers are giving the freedom and peace of mind to developers and companies not to feel the lockdown with price, quality, others.

I continued to monitor and try different CPaaS providers then we realized that none of these popular CPaaS providers or Communications APIs and SDKs providers is perfect enough and switching from one to another as an alternative is not a solution, in fact, its a full waste of time!

Why ? because each CPaaS provider has their strength and weaknesses especially on the carrier connectivity side of things and pricing.

For example, while Twilio is strong in north Americas, Nexmo is stronger in the EU and Unifonic is strong in KSA and so on, so who wants to integrate with many different APIs, SDKs in one application “YUCK!”.

Open Source CPaaS — Twilio Alternatives

jambonz.org

https://docs.jambonz.org

If you’re a software developer, think of CPaaS stack in the same way you think of setting up a web server (LAMP) stack to host your websites and blogs. It is very easy in 2021 to provision your own CPaaS stack in your own infrastructure and let your applications communicate with it to send/receive and control voice/SMS events.

jambonz project was founded by Dave Horton, it is a promising open-source Twilio alternative for communication providers.

Jambonz is a self-hosted, “bring your own everything” open source CPaaS platform, developed by the creator of the drachtio open source sip server.

Unlike those fancy-pants CPaaS services, jambonz is designed to be:

  • 100% open source — the entire project is public on github.com/jambonz (all of it!)
  • Easy to self-host — one-click to run on the infrastructure of your choice
  • Privacy-centric — customer data is never stored by the platform
  • Multi-tenant — good for providers and enterprise developers

Recently Jambonz lunched a commercial hosted CPaaS service with bring your own everything, you can SIGN UP at https://jambonz.us and try it for free.

Features — Pros

  • Deploy on your AWS infrastructure, Bare-metal (Move the CPaaS to the edge)
  • Web-hooks and APIs
  • All the usual telephony controls — dial, gather DTMF, leave, park, hangup
  • Media control.
  • Use your own text-to-speech (TTS) and speech-to-text (STT) integrations,
  • Call controls for audio playback, speech input, transcription
  • Media forwarding via websocket
  • SIP — registration, trunk connectivity, and dialing
  • Applications — define and manage a set of call flows and behaviours
  • JSON based call control
  • REST API for live call control and resource provisioning and management
  • Hierarchical data structure that can handle a variety of deployment scenarios
  • Registrar, Call control, Session Border Control (SBC), API server, and management infrastructure to handle all the features above
  • EC2 AMIs and terraform scripts for launching a jambonz cluster on AWS
  • Anything you want to add — it’s an open source project!
  • SMPP Support (New!)
  • Cost Savings (Use your Own Carriers and stop paying marked up CPaaS provider fees)

Cons

Jambonz does NOT come with billing / AAA (Authentication, Authorization, Accounting), you will have to build credit control on the application level (i do not personally like that approach). However, its possible to proxy calls from Jambonz via TCXC to acheive AAA as service without requiring to write any code.

Who is jambonz for?

  • Commercial CPaaS users that want to save costs using their own SIP trunks and speech services rather than paying up-charged rates to a CPaaS provider.
  • Privacy-concerned Businesses with stringent data privacy requirements who wish to avoid exposing their customers’ sensitive data to third parties that they can’t effectively audit.
  • Developers that want greater control and the ability to add their own features to a CPaaS platform they control.
  • Enterprises with capable IT departments that are already managing most of what is required for a hosted telephony solution (e.g. cloud storage, speech APIs, infrastructure as code, etc) and are starting to wonder why they are paying so much money to a third party for doing the same thing for them
  • Service providers that want a white-label product that they can offer as a branded solution to their customers and ready to build their own billing.

Presentation Video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWz9CM2_HUs

Restcomm by Telestax (Aquired by Mavenir)

Commercial CPaaS Enablement (For Carriers)

Restcomm

Restcomm CPaaS Platform official website.

After research i have realized that what the community needs is one API, SDK for voice, video, messaging, 2FA , Call Queueing, Conferencing that allows us to use any SMS, Voice, Video, Messaging channel, carrier that we want including Nexmo, Twilio, Plivo and other Tier 1 carriers like Airtel, TATA, BT, Verizon etc...

So the way to solve the problem was we needed to build voice, video, messaging, webrtc APIs and software developer kit (SDK) from scratch. that will interact with our backend infrastructure to complete the transaction.

While it’s totally possible to build it we realized that to do it right and scale it properly we need a couple of years and a few million dollars and probably 2–3 years to get the job done right!

I studied the Restcomm Open Source project and realized that it has all the building Blocks that empowers most of the successful CPaaS retailers out there like Twilio, Plivo, Nexmo with their proven and well respected open-source stacks like (GMLC, USSD, SMSC, JSS7, SIP servlet, JDiameter).

Restcomm platform offers bring your own carrier (BYOC) option which makes this demand possible using SIP / SMPP interfaces. The traffic flow will be like this:

Developer Application → Restcomm cloud → SIP/SMPP → TCXC Platform.

Restcomm open source stacks are used by the largest operators in the world, including Zain, Etisalat, Google, U-fone, Deutche Telekom and many others. if you spend a little time on slide share you’ll find relevant presentations that explain how these companies use it for many years now.

Restcomm Cons

Before you go the Restcomm route you have to realize that it has no prepaid billing and rating engine, you have to build your own billing system using Restcomm APIs and web-hooks, status callbacks or use JDiameter for real-time charging which is not available in the Cloud version of Restcomm.

You may also use TCXC Cloud as SIGNALING PROXY for CPaaS AAA as a work around. read this blog post for more details on this topic.

Restcomm Pros:

i want to high light that Restcomm is originally an open-source project representing over 5,000,000 lines of JAVA code and took estimates 1,554 years of effort according to OpenHub. It was in my opinion the only technology stack out there that provides the freedom and the mature capabilities to be a real alternative to twilio from technology point of view.

For voice here is an independant report by AT&T Research labs and Columbia University compares MSS (Mobicents Sip Server), OCCAS (Oracle Communications Converged Application Server) and IBM WAS (Websphere Application Server). The report is focused on the highest level of service availability.This is just one of the reasons that i think its the right answer, happy to share more if you needed.

Expanding my views on Restcomm

if you dig deep enough into this topic and evaluate all the technologies out there you’ll realize that i have no intention of mis-leading or just selling.

i personally spent more than 6years of my life researching this specific topic and trying to give the best answer to it.

It’s also worth mentioning that the cloud version of Restcomm does not sell services directly to developers. It only allows CSPs (Communication service providers or communications aggregators) to add the RESTFul API layer on top of its infrastructure to allow developers to use their services in a programmable way.

For developers who are looking to just migrate from Twilio to another CPaaS provider, i do mention in the article the CSPs who got CPaaS enabled by the Restcomm , because am sure that it can scale and deliver the quality that developers want.

Hope this clarifies the “Why” i chose Restcomm or CSPs enabled by restcomm as the god of all alternatives to black box CPaaS providers.

By following the same practice, you can easily realize , it will become obvious the the core technology used by the successful CPaaS provider is the open-source Restcomm stack underneath. This is what led me to go deeply into the Restcomm project and learn everything about it before i share this article.

Movin on… Telestax the company behind Restcomm open source project, they took out the complexity of The Restcomm setup and configuration by offering an easy way to start and scale your CPaaS Platform in the Cloud.

This solves the API layer of the problem, next what you need is to use Restcomm Cloud Bring Your Own Carrier (BYOC) feature to connect to Voice, SMS Carriers using SIP and SMPP protocols.

Once that is done you’re ready to add as many SMS & Voice carriers as you need including Twilio, Nexmo. and let your application interact with one single API and you can manipulate connectivity and routing on the application level.

Disclaimer: Am the founder of TelecomsXChange and not shy to promote it in this article .

Another option is that you can also use TelecomsXChange (TCXC) platform to instantly connect your Restcomm cloud account to hundreds of Voice and SMS carriers (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3) around the world at wholesale prices and use the wholesale APIs that we expose to automate your carrier relations and connectivity completely.

Making Outbound Call Examplecurl -X POST https://[ACCOUNTSID]:[TOKEN]@cloud.restcomm.com/restcomm/2012-04-24/Accounts/ACCOUNT_SID/Calls.json -d 
From=19542405000” -d
To=[Carrier-Prefix][Destination Number]” -d
“Url=[APP_URL]”

Managing Routing using TCXC Console.

Twilio Alternatives For Developers (Commercial)

Developers looking to migrate away from Twilio and do not want to get into efforts or the traffic is too small for building their own CPaaS solutionusing Restcomm Cloud. One option is that they can use any of the CPaaS enabled service providers by Restcomm, or stay with Twilio until the time is right to migrate.

The list of alternative CPaaS enabled providers alternatives across the world is growing, in the next section we will talk about some service providers in different regions that use Restcomm Stack to offer CPaaS alternatives to Twilio in those regions.

Other commercial alternatives for developers i captured are listed below:

  • Nexmo (Aquired by Vonage): Serves globally, slightly lower price than Twilio, can’t bring your own carrier. Many problems with inbound SMS delivery, our tests showed that numbers in US from Vonage arent reliable for inbound SMS. please test carefully before deciding to build your application with nexmo.
  • SignalWire : FreeSwitch based, reasonable pricing — Cant bring your own carrier, focused on U.S mostly. Seems like the focus has pivoted to Video with this provider.
  • Plivo : Serves globally , reasonable pricing — You can’t bring your own carrier, numbers etc..
  • Bandwidth: Twilio alternative in U.S, minimum spend to get an account and can’t bring your own carrier. Recently Bandwidth aquired Voxbone to expand their number offering globally.
  • Unifonic: Twilio alternative in Saudi Arabia.
  • CM.com
  • Sinch.com

If you think another CPaaS provider should be listed here, please feel free to contact me .

CPaaS enablement for Communication Service Providers (CSPs)

Restcomm cloud makes it easy for service providers to white label and lunch CPaaS services and plug it to the legacy protocols.

Service Providers can unlock new premium revenue streams and modernize their offerings by adding CPaaS platform in front of their existing network.

Enterprise business customers that are unable to get CPaaS by you, are paying premium to Twilio, Nexmo etc.. to use your network!

Additionally CPaaS makes Tier 1s dream come true, as building in-house new features and VAS (Value Added Services) will become a breeze using Low-code and No-code visual designer.

References

Telin a subsidery of PT Telkom Indonesia has recently launched its CPaaS offering on top of Restcomm Cloud infrastructure. if you’re located in that part of the world, you might want to check their landing page out for CPaaS.

Telin CPaaS Offering

U.S

In the US reputable CSPs like MetTel and Teli have also launched their CPaaS to serve enterprises who appreciate their long standing white glove relationship and better standing with Tier 1s. Being on good terms with tier 1s reflects in the qos , delivery rate and traffic blocking filters

It’s also worth mentioning that companies like SignalWire (By FreeSwitch a well respected Open Source Community project) was also born in 2018 to compete directly with Twilio un-acceptable premium pricing and lock down environment.

I won’t be surprised that signal wire would offer an additional easy CPaaS enablement platform in the future or not, let’s see how that goes.

Asia — Japan

In Asia there has been lots of momentum by companies adopting Restcomm Open Source Cloud CPaaS to quickly catch up and offer communications as a service to developers like LignApps in Japan offering programmable IoT wireless as the main differentiator in their CPaaS offering.

My Personal Thoughts on Twilio in the beginning of 2019

Zain — Jordan

CPaaS

Press Release

“Zain looks forward to offering expanded CPaaS capabilities to our enterprise customers,” said Fahad AlJasem, Chief Executive Officer of Zain Jordan. “For example, banks need two-factor authentication services now. These omnichannel capabilities enable better and more secure customer engagement for our banking customers. By partnering with Telestax we can deliver these needed services quickly and reliably — gaining more business and opportunities with our key accounts.”

My Personal Views on Twilio

I do significantly respect the market that Twilio created, i think the company brilliantly stood on the shoulders of the Open Source RTC community without giving significant contributions back to the community projects as they deserve.

Twilio did a great job marketing and packaging it to developers which counts for them for creating the massive CPaaS market we see today.

The acquisition of the Send Grid for 2 Billion gets me really questioning about their telecom vision and innovation future, for 2 billions Twilio could have reshaped the whole telecom industry world-wide.

Let me know what’s your opinion, where did I go wrong ?

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Telecom Entrepreneur, Open Source Believer, CPaaS Evangelist — CTO @TelecomsXChange

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Ameed Jamous

Ameed Jamous

Telecom Entrepreneur, Open Source Believer, CPaaS Evangelist — CTO @TelecomsXChange

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