What’s next for SMS long and short codes?

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

Stefan Heller, Head of Carrier Relations (North America) – January 17, 2020

In an April 2019 blog post, we told you how the major US Carriers were set to launch the long-awaited 10 DLC originators for A2P (Application-to-Person) SMS in May.

Guess what? Things have changed a lot since then.

This is an updated version of a June 2019 blog. For the latest A2P 10 DLC news – including the Verizon 10DLC launch – check out our January 2020 blog post.

A2P 10 DLC kicks off

Verizon is due to go live with their A2P 10 DLC messaging product in February 2020. The other Tier 1 US carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile & Sprint) haven’t made any announcements – yet. But we expect them to go live with A2P 10 DLC in the first half of 2020.

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

You should still make a switch – here’s why

The A2P 10 DLC delays might feel like welcome news for the many companies that still use cheaper, unsanctioned long codes (designed for person-to-person traffic) to communicate with customers.

But we still advise these businesses to consider switching to a 10 DLC number sooner rather than later.

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

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.

Earlier this month, AT&T announced it would terminate any short code that delivers spam traffic. That means any other business sharing that code will see their traffic blocked too.

This may feel unfair for businesses that legitimately use shared short codes. But AT&T puts the security and experience of their consumers above all other considerations.

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.

But the latest stance is clearly far stricter.

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.

It seems likely that many businesses will stop using shared short codes. So what are the options?

  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

Another option is to use A2P 10 DLC. These numbers are expected to be faster to provision, have lower monthly costs, and be sanctioned by the carrier networks. It’s important to note that carriers will be vetting businesses before allowing them to send traffic on A2P 10 DLC. It’s in their interest to keep this route spam free.

  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 launch 10 DLC. 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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