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

OpenMarket – December 4, 2018

The impact of AT&T’s newly announced code of conduct to prohibit the use of shared short codes is being felt throughout the A2P SMS industry. Businesses that rely on shared codes – whether they’re small retailers or SMS resellers – now have some big decisions to make.

There is a lot of information to navigate following the announcement– with more to come in the coming months from AT&T and other carriers. 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, 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 near 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.

These long codes are different from the current P2P US long codes which are currently used by many businesses despite not being approved for business use by carriers such as AT&T.

The new A2P long codes will be a legitimate, sanctioned SMS channel. A code of conduct for the codes will be released by AT&T closer to commercial availability.

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. We expect AT&T to provide a solution with greater throughput. But it’s unlikely this solution 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 a new A2P long code solution – 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. 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 long codes or dedicated short codes, we’re ready to make the process as smooth as possible.

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