Top 3 Findings Regarding Deactivated US Mobile Phone Numbers

OpenMarket – March 30, 2016

This blog post is a follow-up from a recent article that I wrote on why mobile operator deactivated phone numbers matter.  We’ve done additional research with US mobile operators and discovered several interesting points that you might not be aware of. As a reminder, this is an important topic for every business owner who wants to run a SMS or MMS program in the US. It isn’t explained very often or very well, so it is worth the time to understand it better now.

Table of US Carriers Providing Deact Reports

Carrier-Deact-Reports-List(Table contents are subject to change; view our documentation for the most recent updates.)

The Report Frequency field is a reflection of how frequently we are able to receive newly deactivated mobile phone numbers from the mobile operators. OpenMarket provides you the information within a couple of hours from when we receive it.  The Age of Data refers to how long ago a phone number was deactivated. Lastly, the Deactivation Period is the number of calendar days that a phone number is going to be deactivated before the mobile operator recycles the number.

Finding 1

Verizon is the only mobile operator who provides their newly deactivated mobile phone numbers on an hourly basis instead of once a day. They are also the carrier with the most subscribers in the US, so it’s not surprising that they provide the newly deactivated phone numbers on a more frequent basis so you have fewer numbers to process in their reports. Because their deactivation period is 31 days, however, it is safe for you to scrub your messaging lists of contacts and remove their deactivated phone numbers once a day like you should be doing with the rest of the carriers’ deactivated phone numbers. There isn’t any real value added to scrub your list more than once a day, though.

Finding 2

Two days is the most frequent deactivation period for mobile operators – not 31 days as I’ve frequently heard some people saying is the “norm.” Why is this important? If you are only messaging your customer once a week and you erroneously believed that it was acceptable for you to scrub your messaging list of contacts of deactivated phone numbers on a weekly or monthly basis, then you would almost certainly miss some of the deactivated mobile phone numbers that were recycled and reactivated in between your weekly SMS messaging. This means that you would be sending Mobile Terminated (MT) messages to a new subscriber who didn’t opt into your program (aka the wrong person) and this would be a TCPA violation.

Finding 3

All of the largest carriers in the US offer deactivated phone numbers, but not all the small carriers do. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular all provide deactivated phone numbers and they say that their mobile virtual number operators (MVNOs) are included in their deactivated phone number reports.  However, there are dozens of smaller US mobile operators that don’t provide OpenMarket with their deactivated mobile phone numbers. When and if they do, we will make their data available to you.

So, What Do I Do Next?

Our customers are expected to do two things to mitigate this issue. First, customers need to download the US mobile operator deactivated phone number reports that OpenMarket makes available via our Customer Center portal or programmatically via an API. Virtually all of the US mobile operators provide a list of daily changes which are the additions of newly deactivated phone numbers since their last report.  Secondly, on a daily basis, customers should remove any of the mobile operators deactivated phone numbers from their list of contact phone numbers that they are using for their SMS program(s).

A third step (but not a requirement for dealing with this issue) would be that businesses reach out to their customers via another communication channel that they have consent to use other than SMS to ask them for their new mobile phone number. They should also ask customers for their consent to opt them back into the SMS program so the business can text them on the correct mobile phone number. The business could then replace the customer’s deactivated phone number with their new phone number. Problem solved.

If you want more guidance on how to process US mobile operators deactivated phone numbers, feel free to contact OpenMarket support or review our Deactivated Phone Numbers report documentation.  Lastly, it should be noted that the US carriers have taken notice of the FCC TCPA ruling and they are starting to consider how to make it easier for businesses to avoid accidentally spamming new subscribers using recycled phone numbers. This is important since no standard exists regarding what information and how operators will provide it to be processed by businesses. OpenMarket will continue working with carriers on how they can make improvements in this area. Please contact us if you have additional questions.

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