The AT&T shared short code ban: Next steps for the A2P industry

OpenMarket – January 18, 2020

The impact of AT&T’s code of conduct to prohibit the use of shared short codes rocked the A2P SMS industry in 2018. Businesses that relied on shared codes – whether they were small retailers or SMS resellers – were left with some big decisions to make.

This is an updated version of a December 2018 blog post. For the latest A2P 10DLC news – including the Verizon 10DLC launch – check out our January 2020 blog post.

There was a lot of information to navigate following the announcement – with more to come from AT&T and other carriers in 2020. In the meantime, we’re here to help our customers and partners find new ways to pivot and thrive in this changing environment.

What we know so far

In October 2018, the carrier told A2P partners it will stop activating any new shared short codes with immediate effect – adding that it will stop supporting existing shared short code campaigns some time in the future.

Specific use cases that AT&T says will still be allowed to use shared short codes are:

  • Emergency notifications
  • 2FA / OTP
  • Transit alerts
  • Job postings (if the message sender is doing the hiring)
  • Charities


Shared short codes can still be used for multiple businesses (like a chain of restaurants) if there is a single business owner.

AT&T has indicated it will provide advance notice, at least three months,  before it pushes the button on the ban for existing codes. And it will only take effect when the carrier launches a new commercial 10-digit long code (10DLC) solution for businesses.

Unlike P2P US long codes – which have been used by many businesses over the years despite not being approved for business use – 10DLC will be a legitimate, sanctioned SMS channel.

From February 2020, Verizon will accept A2P messages sourced from a 10DLC on their US network.

The Verizon shared short code policy hasn’t been announced. But Verizon and the other major US carriers are likely to limit their use. Once all the major US carriers – Verizon, T-mobile, Sprint and AT&T – have launched their 10DLC services, a lot of shared short-code traffic will need to be migrated.

Verizon, short codes, and moving to 10DLC (ten digit long codes)

If your business relies on unsanctioned P2P long codes or shared short codes today, Verizon’s 10DLC service might be your best option. 10DLC will eventually offer reliable deliverability with a much higher throughput than old long codes – meaning 10 DLC can be used for campaigns to large audiences.

The other major US mobile operators are expected to launch their own 10DLC products in the coming months.


A dilemma for businesses

As most of you reading this will already know, a shared short code enables businesses to conduct mass messaging programs at a reduced cost. The other option for big campaigns – a dedicated short code – can only be owned by a single company and is far more expensive.

Companies that use shared short codes will need to weigh up the costs and processes of moving to a dedicated short code. Smaller companies may struggle with that cost, in which case the new A2P long codes might be their only option.

At the moment, P2P US long code messages can be delivered at a speed of approximately one a second – totally unsuitable for big campaigns. The carriers’ 10DLC solutions will eventually provide greater throughput. But it’s unlikely they will be anywhere near the 1,000-a-second-or-more speeds that short codes deliver.

What this means for the wider industry

It’s almost certain that other carriers will follow suit and prohibit the use of shared short codes while promoting their 10DLC solutions – as this will make it easier for them to control traffic they class as spam. (It can be difficult for carriers to oversee traffic when they can’t tell which company uses which shared code.)

The likely extinction of shared short codes, and the renewed importance of long codes, serves to highlight the fact that the mobile messaging industry is in continual flux, with many more adaptations to come in the future.

Whether it’s the upcoming industry moves to RCS or AI-powered messaging, the key is to stay alert and agile.

At OpenMarket, we’re here to help our customers and partners pivot and move forward as these changes take effect. We provide the tools, solutions, strategic advice and network access they need, while leveraging our close relationships with AT&T and all the major US carriers to represent their interests. Our carrier relations team are advocates for our customers, highlighting their needs and concerns.

We’re also here to help smooth out any migrations from shared short codes. As the US’s biggest short code provider, a market leader in long codes, and one of the largest mobile messaging providers in the world, we know we have a big role to play here.

What’s next?

We are holding regular talks with carriers about this situation and will keep you informed of developments on our blog. If you’re a customer or partner, get in touch with your account manager whenever you need help or advice. The AT&T Code of Conduct and guidance contained in an FAQ is available on our Docs and Resources site under US and Canadian Industry Guidelines.

In the meantime, for companies that want to migrate campaigns from shared short codes to 10DLC long codes or dedicated short codes, we’re ready to make the process as smooth as possible.

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