The end of shared short codes: How do you find alternatives?

Topic: Short codes

In 2021, US mobile carriers announced they were no longer supporting shared short codes. What are your alternative options? We discuss in this blog.

Shared short codes are short codes (a phone number that’s five to six digits long) that are used by several businesses at the same time. Each business has to have a unique keyword, so traffic can go to the right place. While convenient for businesses, there are various drawbacks to using shared short codes, which led US mobile carriers to announce they were no longer going to support them as of 2021.

Some of the leading drawbacks were:

  • Increased risk of spam from illegitimate senders/businesses
  • More spam complaints that will negatively impact business reputation. If one company received spam complaints, so will the other businesses also using that code which can lead to…
  • …reduced SMS deliverability and traffic blocking – even for legitimate brands as they will be penalized for spam complaints through no fault of their own

What are the alternatives to SMS shared codes?

It’s best practice to have one dedicated number. Here are the options you can choose from:

Toll-free numbers

This is a tried-and-tested option, particularly for businesses that rely on commercial messaging (application to person/A2P) and prioritize deliverability. Toll-free numbers are approved for mass texting, support high volume messaging, and can even be used for voice calls (if enabled).

Toll-free numbers have a high throughput. So, if you’re considering this option, check if there are any additional monthly charges associated with applying for a toll-free number and increasing throughput in the future.

10-digit long codes

Also known as 10DLC, this is a popular option for commercial messaging and allows you to send texts via approved local numbers. They are a great option for mass texting, unlike P2P local long numbers.

If you want to use 10DLC as your dedicated number option, ensure your SMS provider supports the right infrastructure to maintain deliverability. 10DLC numbers don’t offer delivery receipts, so if you’d like that insight, a short code or toll-free number might be a better choice.

Short codes

Although this is typically the most costly option and takes the longest time to be approved (up to 8-12 weeks), it offers the best customer experience and promotes the highest throughput. 

So if you have a large subscriber list (e.g. over 100,000 subscribers) and want to launch a high-volume campaign in minutes, a dedicated short code might be the ideal choice.

Let’s compare the options…

Toll-free numbers10DLCShort codes
Example1-800-123-45671-234-567-890112345 or 123456
Type of messagingA2PA2P, P2PA2P
Approval timeUp to 2 daysInstant8-12 weeks
Two-way messagingYesYesYes
Ideal forA2P messagingMass textingLarge SMS subscriber lists
Delivery receiptsYesNoYes
Ability to send MMS messagesYesYesYes
Voice-enabled servicesYesYesNo

Which option should you choose?

Now that shared short codes are no longer a viable option, you might be wondering whether you should pick a toll-free number, 10DLC, or a dedicated short code. Is one better than the other? 

The answer depends on what your business needs. For example:

  • Do you need to access P2P messaging as well as A2P? 10DLC is the only option of the three that supports P2P messaging in addition to A2P. 
  • How quickly do you need to be up and running? 10DLC and toll-free numbers can be ready instantly or within a few days while a short code can take around 8-12 weeks.
  • Would you like delivery receipts? Toll-free numbers and short codes support this feature.

The above considerations (though not exhaustive) may influence your decision.

Esendex: Your SMS partner

With the end of shared short codes, it’s time to choose an alternative texting service to communicate with customers and prospects. The top three options are toll-free numbers, 10DLC, or dedicated short codes. While your choice of service matters, another consideration is your messaging partner. 

At Esendex, we provide a short code texting service that makes it easy to procure a five to six-digit number. We also offer 10DLC services for those who wish to use them. With more than 20 years of experience in working with organizations of various sizes and industries, we’re a global partner that can make the process of handling your text messaging campaigns straightforward. 

Want to learn more? Reach out to us today.

Author Avatar
Mayzin Han