Shared short codes are going away. Here’s how to find your alternative

Green phone screen with 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. It’s time to say goodbye to your shared short code.

What is a shared short code?

A shared short code is a 5-6 digit number that is shared between multiple businesses to save on costs and time-to-market.

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.

What are the problems with shared short codes?

For multiple businesses to use a single short code, each business needed its own unique keywords to separate the traffic. In some cases, multiple businesses would send users messages from the same short code for different purposes, making for a poor user experience and tough opt-in/opt-out management.

The second (and much bigger) problem with shared short codes happens when one business user of the short code violates content or messaging practices; then the entire 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 (or business) 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 finally 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. All carriers have already blocked the approval of any new shared short code use cases.

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) is a new, carrier-sanctioned way to send A2P messages using local phone numbers, that started with Verizon in 2020. This change complicates messaging business models, but opens up business use cases that need to be tied to a local phone number.

The best alternatives to shared short codes

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

  • Toll-Free Messaging: Did you know you can SMS-enable your business’ toll-free number? Thanks to high volume application-to-person (A2P) messaging on toll-free numbers, this is the first and best option for sanctioned business messaging traffic. Use the same number you’re already relying on for your customer contact center or sales line, or spin up a new toll-free number for your messaging program quickly.
  • 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 with an easy-to-remember short code that allows you to build brand awareness. This process does take some time, as carrier approvals can vary from 8-12 weeks, but it is a reliable, high-volume alternative to shared short codes. 
  • Ten Digit Long Code (10DLC) Messaging: This new type of A2P messaging allows businesses to use local numbers to send high volumes of text messages over approved local numbers, giving your business that local touch. With all of the new campaign regulations and carrier fees associated with 10DLC, we only recommend this route if your business relies on locality. On top of that, 10DLC numbers aren’t able to provide handset delivery receipts, meaning your message delivery insights are better on toll-free and short code.

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

  Dedicated short codes Toll-free messaging Ten digit long code (10DLC) messaging
Approved for A2P Messaging YES YES YES
Avg Monthly Number Hosting Fee $500-1,000 ~$1 $10/number per month with The Campaign Registry
Voice enabled NO YES YES
Approval time 4-12 weeks 1-3 business days 3 business days
Delivery receipts available? YES YES NO
Able to send MMS? YES YES YES

What are my next steps?

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.