A guide to HLR Lookup

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  • What is an HLR Lookup?
  • How does an HLR Lookup work?
  • Why do I need to perform an HLR Lookup?
  • Benefits to your business
  • What type of business would benefit from HLR Lookup?
  • Who can help?
  • FAQs

What is an HLR Lookup?

HLR stands for Home Location Register and the Home Location Register is the main database that holds the most accurate and up-to-date information on every mobile/cell phone subscriber in the world. When you request or perform an ‘HLR Lookup’ you are checking if a mobile phone is active, switched on and which network it is assigned to.

How does an HLR Lookup work?

HLR Lookups make it possible to check the status of any GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phone number via a ‘real-time’ query of subscriber information. By making a query to the Home Location Register it checks worldwide networks to validate mobile phone numbers and to verify mobile phone number status, including whether it is roaming. The process of performing an HLR Lookup is (to put it simply):

  • make a query of, or upload a list of telephone numbers you wish to validate
  • the numbers are checked against the HLR
  • results are returned to you showing network operator details, country location, country code & telephone number and whether the number is active, deactivated, invalid or roaming

Results are usually returned quickly - a matter of seconds for single-number checks to a few hours for HLR Lookups with thousands of numbers.

Why do I need to perform an HLR Lookup?

If you’re a business that relies upon customer database information then you’ll know that contacting your customer base can be time consuming and costly. Retail businesses, call centres, sales departments and educational institutes to name a few may regularly want or need to contact their customers whether via a telephone call or via SMS (text message). Having accurate information to work with not only makes your efforts more cost effective but also compliant with GDPR and other regulatory bodies.

Benefits to your business

Arguably the most important contact information you can have for a customer, prospect or sales lead is their contact telephone number. You are more likely to reach someone via their phone number than you are via their email and mobile phone numbers allow you to send information text messages. A good, clean phone number is imperative to accurate data and can increase the value of your data and improve your ROI (Return on Investment).

Mobile validation can benefit your business in the following ways:

  • Efficiency and optimisation: by making the best use of your contact telephone number list/database you will optimise your resources, cut waste, save time and become more efficient.
  • Cost saving: it’s estimated that between 10-20% of mobile phone numbers ‘die’ each year. By getting rid of dead numbers you won't waste money by trying to call (both the cost of the call and associated time) that number. When sending text messages, you will be charged for sending a text whether the number is live or dead; why waste money sending messages to dead numbers?
  • Risk reduction: limit contact with fake and potentially fraudulent or duplicated numbers.
  • Boost staff morale: by dramatically reducing the number of unanswered calls staff morale will be maintained. Happy staff make for a good working environment and improved conversion rates.
  • Improve statistics: producing a report which is more streamlined gives a better impression than having to report on a long list of negative data. Who wants to produce a report outlining losses?
  • Compliance: according to the principles of GDPR, data held by any company must be accurate and up-to-date. Mobile verification ensures your company is GDPR compliant by allowing you to discard inaccurate numbers.
  • International validation: HLR is a global resource and as such you can validate and verify most mobile telephone numbers worldwide without the need for a separate service for UK and international HLR Lookups.

What type of business would benefit from HLR Lookup?

ANY business could benefit from HLR Lookup. Most businesses have to keep a list of customers and customer contact information and no business wants to waste money. The most common solutions customers look for from an HLR Lookup tend to be:

  1. Cleaning up old databases. The majority of businesses have databases and quite often, if the databases are not maintained, they contain old data. This breaks GDPR but it is also useless information for an organisation to hold, not to mention costly if you’re trying to contact inactive numbers.
  2. Verifying data on web forms. If you have a contact form on your website for your customers to complete you can perform an HLR Lookup to validate telephone numbers provided. You can perform a search manually if your form submissions are low or you can integrate via API (Application Programming Interface) web form validation. Performing an HLR Lookup on a web form helps businesses establish which are genuine enquiries and contact requests.
  3. Efficient direction of calls. If you’re an organisation with a large list of customers to contact you may know that sometimes you can get preferential rates for contacting numbers associated with certain networks (Least Cost Routing). Therefore you may find it useful to know which customers are on Vodafone, which customers are on EE or which customers are on O2 for example.
  4. Saving money before sending an SMS campaign. Sending texts can be costly, especially if you’re sending thousands of text messages per month. By regularly cleaning your database of contact numbers and eliminating dead numbers you could potentially save thousands of pounds over the course of the year.

Here’s an idea of the types of business that would benefit from performing HLR Lookups:

Data providers - companies who supply customer information to other organisations will need to ensure that the contact details are accurate. Most UK companies who are in this line of business operate legitimately and take great pains over their reputations. They would not want to risk forwarding poor quality details and therefore make regular use of HLR Lookups to ensure the data they supply is clean and accurate.

Retail - text marketing is big business for retail. Retailers contact their opted-in customers with sale information, details on latest deals and discount codes for example. With a customer list of many thousands it’s important to ensure the marketing budget is not wasted on messaging deactivated numbers.

Call centres - UK call centres have an ever-changing database of customers and it is therefore important to undertake regular HLR Lookups to ensure call centre staff are not wasting time and money trying to contact a non-existent customer. As well as the cost saving aspect, removing inactive mobile phone numbers can improve the call centre environment; it can be demoralising for staff to hear dead-tone after dead-tone.

Medical - doctors surgeries, hospitals and clinics all have vast databases of patients and regularly have to contact them with appointments, clinical updates, reminders and information messages. Working within serious budgets it’s vital for medical establishments to make sure patient contact details are accurate so as not to waste money texting invalid numbers.

Education - schools, nurseries, colleges and universities regularly send messages to students, parents and alumni with news, information and appointments. Educational establishments in a similar way to medical practices work under budget constraints therefore being cost efficient is important for budget-management. An HLR Lookup is a good way to ensure only live numbers are contacted.

Sales companies - or even sales departments within companies, will have large databases or will regularly purchase data. This customer information will need to be checked and cleaned regularly so that only live numbers are contacted in order to run efficiently and effectively. Sales companies are usually heavily regulated too so having compliant (accurate) data is crucial to avoid fines and maintain reputation.

Who can help?

A quick web search will show that there are many companies in the UK and worldwide who offer HLR Lookups. There are different ways of requesting and accessing information and HLR Lookups to suit different budgets and requirements. Here are some of the most popular HLR Lookup companies:

Experian: A multi-national company of whom most people have heard due to their credit checking/scoring. But they deal with data too, in all forms and this includes performing HLR Lookups. Experian are able to perform bulk checks or ‘point of capture’ checks and can integrate their software into your websites and customer databases. No pricing information is available on the Experian website but you can contact them directly to discuss requirements.

Loqate: Loqate are a global organisation who are ‘the world's most trusted data specialists in location intelligence for businesses of all sizes and sectors’. They can offer point of entry, or batch validation and can work with your website, databases or apps. You can get a 14-day free trial with Loqate and prices start with a basic plan from £50 for 1000 HLR Lookups.

Data8: A UK-based company with over 14 years experience in the data industry. Data8 offer different data cleaning services including mobile verification. A free trial is available as is a bespoke package, otherwise prices start from around 4p per record. Data8 also offer multiple-platform integration.

Data Soap: A UK-based company with many years experience in the data industry with the technology know-how for a fully managed in-house service. Data Soap is a cost-effective, pre-pay service that allows you to top up via your account using PayPal or a card, with different bundles available online (can be combined with other Data Soap cleansing services). Data Soap are able to check mobile numbers worldwide covering all numbers on GSM networks from 238 countries. A free trial is available alongside regular promotional offers and there are bespokes packages to suit your needs and type of business. Prices start from £0.0017p per record.


How much does an HLR Lookup cost?

Prices vary from provider to provider and are dependent on a number of conditions: whether you have an introductory offer, how many HLR Lookups you need, whether you combine with any other services for example. HLR Lookups tend to reduce in price the higher the volume you have to check. Bear in mind that as this is a business service and most prices are displayed exclusive of VAT and if you purchase from an overseas company there may be transaction fees to consider.

How many numbers can I validate at once?

Most companies don’t restrict the amount of numbers you can check on an HLR Lookup - you get whatever you pay for. The larger the batches however the longer it takes to return the results.

Do I have to wait while my lists upload?

Unless the HLR Lookup service is handling everything for you, you will likely need to wait for your file to upload before the batch can begin processing. Once processing has begun, there’s not usually a need to wait, your chosen provider will notify you when your job is complete and your results are ready for download.

Will I get my results in real-time?

Not necessarily. If you’re only checking individual numbers then, with most providers, results will indeed be returned in real-time. Larger quantity batches will take much longer to process although you should, in most cases, receive your results within 24 hours of upload.

How often should I clean my numbers?

This depends on how long you want to keep the data for and what you want to do with it. If you are keeping the data for longer than 6 months then you should probably clean it at least every 5 months. This is because numbers can be recycled and reallocated by the mobile networks and you don’t want to end up contacting the wrong person. There is a potential to see a degradation of 20% in the quality of data over six months.

Is it easy to do an HLR Lookup?

Yes it is! Any company you choose to complete your HLR Lookup will offer a simple account/platform to upload your request/s. It should be a case of setting up an account, uploading your file (this should only take a few minutes) and await your results.

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Bryn Thompson

Bryn is our data manager. He is a true guru in database management, with vast experience, exceeding 10 years. Bryn’s all-round expertise in SEO, PPC, link building and web design adds incredible value to the day-to-day running of our products.