Messaging Revolution 2019: Shared short codes are going away. Here’s how to find your alternative

Caroline Sutton
Caroline Sutton
Consumer receiving text messages from two different businesses on the same shared short code

Change. It’s inevitable. It’s gonna come. It makes the world a better place. Everyone from Michael Jackson, to Sam Cooke, to Kelly Clarkson has sung about it. And just like so many other things in the world, the messaging industry is changing once again. This blog is part one of a multi-part series that will walk you through the many upcoming changes to the messaging industry in 2019.  So what’s changing, and why should you be concerned about using a shared short code? We’ll walk you through it.

What is a Shared Short Code and what are the problems with them?

A shared short code is a 5-6 digit number that is shared between multiple businesses. For multiple businesses to use a single short code, each business must have their own unique keywords to separate the traffic. In some cases multiple businesses can send users messages from the same short code for different purposes, making for a poor user experience and tough opt-in/opt-out management.

In contrast, a dedicated short code is a 5-6 digit number that is used exclusively by one business, meaning that they and only they control the use of that short code.  The second (and much bigger) problem with shared short codes happens when one business user of the short code violates content or messaging practices, the entire shared short code must be shut-down, frustrating the many users and businesses associated with that number.

What happens when Shared Short Codes go away?

The world of business messaging is changing as it makes way for the newly redefined A2P messaging landscape. This change starts at the carrier layer – and the change is starting now! As business messaging evolves, and new technology emerges, shared short codes are slowly beginning to sunset within the telecom industry.

Since each carrier has its own rules for what they will and won’t accept on their networks, businesses will discover that shared short code delivery rates will begin to fall gradually as each wireless carrier begins to block shared short code traffic on their networks over the coming few months.

Why is my shared short code going away?

The reason for this change is two-fold:

  1. Balancing protecting consumers with reliable deliverability: when wireless carriers detect SPAM from a message sender, the entire short code is blocked. If your business is sharing a short code with a bad actor, chances are that your traffic will be blocked as well.
  2. The industry is making way for 10DLC: ten digit long code messaging (abbreviated to 10DLC) will be a new sanctioned way to send A2P messages using local phone numbers, starting in 2019. This change simplifies messaging business models, and opens up new use cases that can be tied to a local phone number.

Business-friendly alternatives are in the works (and some are here now!)

So what’s the best option for your business? Here are a few that you may consider:

  • Dedicated short codes
    You can lease your own dedicated 5-6 digit short code for high volume messaging, and have greater control over your business messaging destiny. The caveat here? Since you’re paying for a dedicated Short Code, each number is going to cost you typically $500-1000 per month, plus messaging usage fees.
  • Toll-Free Messaging
    Did you know you can SMS-enable your business’ toll-free number? Better yet, high volume application-to-person (A2P) messaging is possible on toll-free numbers, with approvals. Get a new number to replace your Short Code or use the same number you’re already relying on for your customer contact center or sales line. Unlike dedicated short codes, the number hosting fees won’t break the bank at just pennies per month, plus messaging usage fees.
  • Ten Digit Long Code (10DLC) Messaging
    While this alternative isn’t yet a reality, A2P traffic over local numbers (referred to in the industry as long codes) is on the horizon. Historically, businesses that needed to use local phone numbers (long codes) for A2P messaging had to resort to using pools of phone numbers to circumvent wireless carrier SPAM filters, sometimes known as snowshoeing. While 10DLC isn’t quite a reality yet, businesses can expect to see commercial deployments in 2019. This new type of A2P messaging will allow businesses to use local numbers to send high volumes of text messages, with approvals.

Here’s a quick chart to make these differences even easier to spot:

 Shared Short CodesDedicated Short CodesToll-free MessagingTen Digit Long Code (10DLC) Messaging
Approved for A2P MessagingNOYESYESYES
Avg Monthly Number Hosting Fee$0$500-1,000~$1Not yet available – contact Bandwidth to be one of the first to know.
Voice enabledNONOYESYES
Approval timeNONE2-4 weeks1-3 business days3 business days
Delivery receipts available?YES – at the individual recipient levelYES – at the individual recipient levelYES – at the individual recipient levelYES
Able to send MMS?YESYESComing soon! Contact us if you’d like to be one of the first to know.YES

Your next steps as a business messaging provider

Now that you’re more educated about the options that exist in today’s messaging marketplace, it’s time to choose the right alternative and get ready to migrate. The good news here: we’ve got a migration guide to help you prepare and plan a migration to toll-free today. Thinking about 10DLC? We’d love to chat about this exciting new addition to the industry.

Toll-Free SMS icon

Looking for an alternative to shared short codes?

Bandwidth's toll-free SMS and local A2P messaging products are great alternatives to shared short codes.

Toll-Free SMS Local A2P Messaging