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Why shared short codes are going away & 10DLC is coming into the US

Recently we discussed how Canada is doing away with shared short codes and it looks like the US is to follow suit by early 2021. Since AT&T’s announcement in late 2018, there has been a gradual progression by US telecom carriers to move customers off shared short codes by offering a new innovative solution – new 10-digit long codes aka 10DLC. These are different from normal long codes, but more on this later. 

If you are currently on a shared short code (or are unsure) and intend to continue sending large text messaging broadcasts to US customers or US mobile numbers, make sure you understand what your options are now.  


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What are short codes and long codes

In telecommunications, ‘code’ is another term for a phone number, which tells carriers the ‘home address’ to connect your call. Like GPS coordinates or a ZIP code. 

Long codes are normal 10-digit numbers like your personal cell phone number. They are, however, designed purely for person-to-person (P2P) purposes such as texting a friend, colleague or family member. Because they are designed for infrequent, personal use, long codes can only send one message per second. 

Short codes are 5-6 digits long and were made for application-to-person (A2P) purposes such as marketing messages or if a business needs to send out appointment reminders to its entire database of clientele. Unlike long codes, the ‘throughput’ (rate of sending) is much higher than a normal long code due to its more frequent use. 

You can send A2P traffic on a long code, but they are not designed for this purpose. 

As a result, long codes (like shared short codes) can be susceptible to fraudulent activity such as smishing scams. 

What is shared short codes SMS

Shared short codes (SSC) are simply single short codes used by multiple businesses at the same. For each business to use the same code, they are delineated by specific keywords of the business’ choice such as PIZZA for a pizza business or LOVE for a dating service.  

Imagine 10 businesses who share an office building. They each share the same office address, with their distinguishing keyword being the level of the building they’re on. 

Why are shared short codes going away

Since their inception, short code sharing has posed numerous risks and difficulties for both carriers and businesses using the short code. 

For businesses, the main problem occurs when a single business sends a broadcast that contravenes good messaging practice. Carriers discovering such broadcasts may shut down entire short codes, including all broadcasts (both in-bound and out-bound) from other businesses sharing the code. It is not easily reinstituted and can frustrate business outcomes for all those who were acting in good faith. 

For carriers, the problem lies in the vetting process. Because anyone can join a shared short code, there can be a lack of visibility and accountability by businesses who share the code. Over 1000 businesses can share a single short code, and carriers are often blind to what may be running on their network. 

Combined, these issues can make shared short codes an easy target for scammers and curb good actors from doing business with their customers. 

What is the 10DLC revolution

Carriers have decided to move away from the use of shared short codes, and enable a system that gives them more visibility and control over their users and reduces the opportunities for fraud, while creating a more trusted and stable network for businesses to operate in.  

Enter 10DLC! 

For many years, carriers have resisted approving long codes for A2P use until now. With the advent of 10DLC, these special 10-digit long code numbers are now configured for legitimate business purposes.  

They will have: 

  • Required vetting and registration  
  • Lower cost than dedicated short codes 
  • Higher throughput than regular long codes 
  • Vetted throughput scoring by some carriers means the rate of sending may be higher or closer to DSC depending on your use case and business 
  • No sharing of code, and less associated risks 
  • Reduced opportunity for fraudulent activity and association thanks to a sanctioned network 

What are my options

Brands and businesses currently using shared short codes can now choose to move to one of three alternative options: 

1. 10-digit long code (10DLC)

Like a normal long code number except it requires carrier vetting and registration before it can be used. The vetting process will decide your throughput 

It costs less than a dedicated short code and your base throughput will be higher than a normal long code. Registration to use is almost instant, pending certain checks and red flags such as credit score. 

One of its most significant distinctions and advantages is branding. Because it retains its area code, some small businesses may want to use it to give their business a local feel. 

2. Dedicated short code (DSC)

The premium in high volume messaging. Dedicated short codes are 5-6 digit code registered for one business and their use only.  

Used specifically for large marketing sends, they also track delivery receipts which are especially important for businesses to measure deliverability and performance of their campaigns. 

They also have the highest throughput of all options. However, unlike 10DLC or TFNs, they do generate a higher cost. They can also take multiple weeks to register and receive approval. 

3. Toll-free number (TFN)

The most cost-effective of all three options. 

TFNs are standard toll-free long codes numbers that can be set up in just a few minutes to help your business send text messaging broadcasts. There is currently no vetting process. Unlike 10DLC or regular long code numbers, TFNs are generally used more for informational purposes but do support 2-way messaging. Unlike 10DLC, however, you will be able to get delivery receipts. 

The throughput for TFN would be the same as your base for 10DLC, although it is able to be increased with a short application by some providers.  

How do I know which option is best for me

In deciding the best alternative for your business, you will need to consider the pros and cons of each option and how they apply to your business.  For example: 

a Tollfree number may be right for you if: 

1. Your company already has a TFN which can be enabled to send SMS 
2. You’re on a strict budget 
3. You’re not that concerned about throughput/volume of sends are low 
4. You need to reach Canadian numbers/customers  

a dedicated short code number may be right for you if:

1. You need to send high volume sends often  
2. You need to ensure deliverability and performance of your broadcasts 
3. You want it to be very easy for customers to remember you 
4. You don’t want limited throughput 
5. You need to reach Canadian numbers/customers 
6. Your campaigns are time-sensitive 
10DLC number may be right for you if: 

1. You want to send from a trusted and vetted network of other senders 
2. You need to send a medium volume sends somewhat often 
3. Your sends are not time-sensitive 
4. You do not need to reach Canadian numbers/customers 
5. You want to retain a local flavor and feel to your number 
6. You want to minimize expenditure 


Still unsure which is best?

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What are my next steps

Now that you know your options, we suggest you start moving as soon as you can. Here are 3 steps to take: 

1. Talk to your messaging provider

If you’re still unsure about whether you’re on a shared short code, or which option to pick, make sure you consult with your messaging provider first. Their expertise might help illuminate what options are best for you as well as which numbers and type of codes your business is currently on. They can also give you a timeline as to when you will need to move by and how long it will take. 

2. Consult with other stakeholders

This might be your business partner, your staff or your legal advisors. It’s important to consider other perspective and the ramifications for this change as well as your legal obligations.  

3. Act quickly!

Once you’ve decided, it’s time to move! Your messaging provider should be able to guide you through the next steps of the process whether its 10DLC, TFN or DSC.  

Depending on your decision, you may need to gather more information for 10DLC vetting process or start preparing a longer, transitional timeline if you decide to move to a dedicated short code. 

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

Final thoughts, further reading

Now you know your best options going forward, isn’t it best to get started now?  Contact us or your messaging provider about next steps as soon as you can. 

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