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

OpenMarket – January 18, 2020

The impact of AT&T’s announced plans 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 blog post was updated on August 16, 2020. 

There’s been a lot of information to navigate following the announcement. Shared short codes are still in use, but their future looks uncertain. Here’s what we know so far:

In October 2018, AT&T 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 said would still be allowed to use shared short codes were:

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

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

All the major US carriers are expected to require businesses to migrate much of their shared short code traffic to approved originators like dedicated short codes or 10DLC. The clock will start ticking once the carriers have launched their 10DLC services. Verizon already accepts A2P messages sourced from a 10DLC on their US network. AT&T is expected to be next, with T-Mobile and Sprint set to follow.

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.

For tips on what to do next, we’ve created some 10DLC tip sheets. If you’re a US enterprise that uses mobile messaging, click here for your tip sheet. If you’re an SMS reseller click here.

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

10DLC will eventually offer reliable deliverability with a much higher throughput than old long codes – meaning 10DLC can be used for campaigns to large audiences. All the major US mobile operators are expected to launch their own 10DLC products this year – perhaps sooner rather than later.

A dilemma for businesses

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 10DLC might be their only option.

At the moment, P2P US long code messages can be delivered at a speed of approximately one a second – which is inadequate for big campaigns. The carriers’ 10DLC solutions will eventually provide greater throughput. You can expect speeds of around 30 TPS (transactions per second). For information on how to secure the TPS your business needs, check out our Get ready for 10DLC post.

What this means for the wider industry

The likely restrictions on the use of shared short codes, and the emergence of 10DLC, serves to highlight the fact that the mobile messaging industry is in continual flux, with many more adaptations to come in the future.

What’s next?

We will keep you informed of 10DLC 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, the indigo multi-channel messaging platform will make the process as smooth as possible.


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