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 – May 31, 2021

For more than 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 May 31, 2021

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

All the major US carriers – Verizon, AT&T and New T-Mobile (which includes Sprint) – are now live with their 10DLC services.

OpenMarket has been working closely with them and we’re pleased to say we have agreements in place with all the major carriers. You can use our Numbers self-service 10DLC tool to manage everything 10DLC-related and start sending and receiving messages.

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 switch to 10DLC, read this 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 said it would stop activating any new shared short codes with immediate effect – save for a few exempted use cases.

Some time in 2021, carriers are likely to require the vast majority of traffic sent via shared short codes to migrate to either 10DLC or a dedicated short code.

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, though this would be at the discretion of each carrier.

But remember, even if you’re using a shared short code legitimately, you face being blocked 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 carriers are ready to move fully to 10DLC. At the same time, 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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