What’s next for SMS long and short codes?

An update on shared short codes and the launch of US A2P 10DLC (10 Digit Long Codes).

OpenMarket – October 8, 2020

For around two years, the major US Carriers have been preparing to launch the long-awaited 10DLC numbers for A2P (Application-to-Person) SMS.

This blog post was first published in 2018, then updated on October 8, 2020

The launches have been delayed for a variety of reasons. But now the situation has progressed.

Verizon went live with their A2P 10 DLC messaging product in the first half of 2020. T-Mobile and AT&T are in ‘soft launch’, with Sprint set to follow soon.

T-Mobile is calling this a soft launch because they are not charging messaging fees until March 1st, 2021. Having no passthrough fees for this grace period is intended to incentivize moving off of shared short codes and grey route long codes.

AT&T will also not be charging messaging fees during their soft launch, but the date they will begin to charge is yet to be determined.

We’ll update you as soon as we know more.

You should switch to A2P 10DLC – here’s why

Many companies still use cheaper, unsanctioned long codes (designed for person-to-person traffic) to communicate with customers.

But we advise these businesses to consider switching to the sanctioned 10DLC routes sooner rather than later. For guidance on how to go about doing this, read our latest 10DLC post.

Carriers are using firewalls and other software techniques to rid their routes of unsanctioned long codes – and they’re stepping up efforts. This means messages sent on these routes could be blocked at any time.

T-Mobile has stated it won’t charge passthrough fees until March 1st, 2021 as an incentive for brands to make the move sooner rather than later. At some point after that date, all traffic will have to be moved from gray-route P2P long codes and unsanctioned shared short codes to dedicated numbers.

Shared short codes in the firing line

Carriers are also getting tough on shared short codes.

Shared short codes are considered a huge spam risk by carriers. They’re hard to regulate because many businesses  – sometimes hundreds or even thousands – can use the same short code at the same time.

AT&T’s historic response to spam coming from a shared short code had been to temporarily suspend it until corrective measures were put in place by the aggregator providing it. Then in October 2018, AT&T told said it would stop activating any new shared short codes with immediate effect – save for a few exempted use cases.

When 10DLC services are launched by every Tier-1 US carrier, it is likely they will require the vast majority of traffic sent via shared short codes to migrate to either 10DLC or a dedicated short code – just like T-Mobile have done with their 2021 deadline..

The future’s in doubt – but your options are clear

The future for shared short codes is unclear. But an outright ban still seems unlikely in the next few years. We believe shared short codes legitimately used by parent companies for individual businesses (like a chain of restaurants) will be supported, but this would be at the discretion of each carrier.

But remember, even if you’re using a shared short code legitimately, you’ll be blocked by AT&T if anyone else uses the code for spam.

So what are the options for businesses?

  1. Dedicated short codes

Moving to a dedicated short code is one. The monthly costs are higher, but dedicated short codes enjoy higher carrier support, and higher potential throughput for campaigns.

  1. A2P 10 DLC

Move traffic to A2P 10DLC. These numbers are faster to provision, have lower monthly costs, and are sanctioned by the carrier networks.

  1. Text-enabled toll-free numbers

This is a service that allows businesses to “text enable” existing toll-free phone numbers, so they have one number customers can either text or call them on. These TETF numbers have a high throughput (though not quite as high as short codes) and are secure and approved for business use.

What’s next for short and long codes?

The industry is waiting for all the carriers to move fully to 10DLC. The crackdown on illegitimate P2P routes will continue. And a firmer stance on shared short codes from the other major US carriers seems likely.

The OpenMarket team holds regular talks with carriers about this situation and can keep you informed of developments. If you need any help or advice in the meantime, just drop us a line here.

If you’re a customer or partner, get in touch with your account manager whenever you need help or advice. We’re always here to help.

Check out our guide to learn how you can migrate short codes to another provider – without any missed, lost or late messages. It’s easier than you might imagine!

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