Shared short codes going away affects SMS business messaging in Canada

Due to regulation changes in Canada, some local carriers will no longer support shared short codes (SSC) nor will they renew leases on current SSCs for SMS broadcasts. This may impact you if you are sending or intend to send text message broadcasts to Canadian numbers or Canadian residents.  

MessageMedia does not offer the leashing or purchase of SSC in Canada currently. Find out what your options and alternatives are below, including whether leasing a dedicated short code is your best bet moving forward.  

Let’s first understand what short codes and long codes are. 

Long code vs short codes

When you send or receive a text message, whether it’s a bulk send or a P2P (person to person, the kind we send all the time), you’re often using a long code number such as a standard phone number, personal mobile number or a dedicated virtual number. In Canada, US or Australia, these are usually 10 digit phone numbers. 

For example:  

  • Canada – (604) 555-5555 
  • USA – (415) 555-3847 
  • Australia – 0412345678 

Almost everyone, who uses a mobile phone, has a designated number for long code messaging.

However, 10-digit long code numbers are limited in their capability for business customers. Because they were originally built for P2P communications, they can therefore only send 1 message per second, and are therefore not great for bulk sends. There are also restrictions on long code and toll-free numbers (TFN) that do not allow for the use of SMS marketing.  

Short code numbers (SSC) are shortened versions of long code numbers. Instead of 10 digits, they are 5-6 digits in length, and built for A2P messaging (aka application to person) purposes including sending a much larger volume of messages per second. They are also easier to remember and can be customised, for example, to spell out a word relating to your broadcast or company.  

For example, if you were a pizza business, and you wanted to send out a text message marketing promotion, you might lease the short code digit number: 74992 (PIZZA).   

Unfortunately, there are some downsides to using a short code. You cannot buy one – they need to be leased either through a carrier or a government operator. It may also take a few weeks to get one, as they are highly vetted for SPAM checks. But because they can send a higher volume of messages, they are fantastic for large marketing campaigns, appointment reminders and many other commercial use cases.  

What is a shared short code

Some wireless carriers in different countries offer the use of shared short codes which means one leased short code may be used by multiple businesses or brands at the same time. In some cases, they can be distinguished by SMS keywords so that the carrier will know which brands are using that shared short code.     

For example: Text PIZZA to 164512 to receive your 10% discount code 

(Pizza is the keyword, and 164512 is the shared short code.) 

This is different to a brand who is able to lease a dedicated short code which is theirs exclusively and not shared by anyone else. While this may be a little more expensive, it can be highly beneficial to a brand wanting to avoid the pitfalls of a shared short codes. We’ll talk a little bit more about this later. 

Why is Canada getting rid of shared short codes

While there are many reasons Canadian regulators are getting rid of shared short codes, one stands out and applies to all. Brands who share a short code also share its risk. In the case of a regulation violation by another brand, this can negate your delivery mechanism or ability to send on that shared short code.  

For example, if a business sharing your short code starts to send out campaigns without first retaining consent, they may be violating your shared short code agreement with the regulator. 

When discovered, your carrier is likely to suspend or shut down any use of that short code by all businesses, even if your business wasn’t the one breaking the rule. This means immediate disruption to any campaigns or broadcasts you are currently deploying or have scheduled. As a further consequence, it can also take a while for a suspension to be lifted or that suspension becomes permanent. 

For this reason alone, continuing on with a shared short code could be detrimental to your business. Canadian regulators have been looking at ending shared short codes for some time so making a move away now is in your best interests. With compliance laws becoming stricter and stricter, any violations by a brand sharing your short code of Canada’s anti-SPAM CASL act, or a Canadian carrier’s rules, can affect your own broadcasts. 

Who does this affect

Anyone sending campaigns using a shared short code or planning on using a shared short code to Canadian users or Canadian mobile numbers. 

If you are currently using a dedicated short code, you will not be affected. 

What are the alternatives to SSC

It’s important that you act as soon as possible so that any planned campaigns or broadcasts are not disrupted. Here are two current options: 

1. SMS toll free numbers (TFN)

We recommend this to any business who needs to move quickly as TFNs are granted almost immediately.  

However, in choosing a TFN, there are multiple limitations including: 

  • Only sending one message per second, 
  • Overall limit on number of messages you can send in a day 
  • Not allowed to send any marketing or promotional messages, they must be purely transactional 

If you’re interested in changing to a toll-free number or you just want to know more, please contact us to chat through next steps.  

2. Dedicated short codes (DSC)

As mentioned above, dedicated short codes are your best option if you would prefer to retain a short code to send to Canadian numbers. In addition, they: 

  • Allow you to send marketing and transactional content 
  • Eliminate the risks of shared short codes as they are leased exclusively by you 
  • Allow you to use custom keywords for different campaigns  
  • Send multiple messages per second 
  • Reliable for sending a high volume of messages 

Keep in mind that it can take a bit longer to get a DSC approved as they need to be certified for your intended use. Make sure you have that time planned ahead of you. 

Whether you’re a MessageMedia customer wanting to change over to a DSC or a prospective customer wanting to know more, please contact us to chat through any queries or next steps.  

Final thoughts, further reading

It’s important that you stay on top of any compliance and regulation changes for any and all of the countries you are planning to send text messages to.  

This article is not legal advice and MessageMedia will not be responsible for any reliance or action you take as result of the content of this article.  

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