Shared Short Codes: Issues and Solutions

March 2, 2021

Shared short codes are not compliant with carrier standards, but migration paths to compliant standard are available.

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Shared short codes are 5 or 6 digit phone numbers that are shared by multiple organizations or businesses.  A person will sign up to be texted by an organization by texting a keyword -- essentially subscribing or opting in to receive texts from a specific brand.

Problems with Shared Short Codes

When multiple brands are using the same short code for texting, managing opt outs becomes impossible and creates a very poor user experience.  For instance, if Sally replies STOP to Brand A’s text message, none of the other brands are able to contact Sally.  A carrier keyword like STOP removes the ability for Sally to be contacted forevermore on that shortcode.

A worse and more odious problem exists for shared short codes.  A bad actor that utilizes a short code improperly can lead to the entire short code being shut down.  If Brand A were to send illegal or improper messages to their opt-in list, the carriers have full right to shut down ALL traffic on the short code, which would effectively deny service to all other compliant brands and lead to massive disruption.

As a result, the use of shared short codes is now considered non-compliant at the carrier level.  Here is the exact language used by AT&T in a recent communication:

All existing shared short codes will be terminated at a future date to be determined and will be consistent with the commercial availability of 10DLC A2P messaging. This will formally be communicated with appropriate advance notice.

And, the relevant section from their directive on this matter:

Delivery rates are beginning to fall as carriers are now aggressively blocking traffic on shared short code traffic on their networks.

Solutions

There are three pathways for businesses wishing to migrate from share short codes, each with advantages and disadvantages to consider:

Dedicated Short Code

An organization can apply for and lease their own dedicated 5-6 digit short code.  This process takes 3-4 months. Typically, short codes cost around $1,000 per month just to lease the phone number.  But, for high volume, high deliverability, a dedicated short code can be the way to go.  100 messages per second or more are supported by short codes.

Toll Free

It is possible to light up a toll free phone number (1-800-xxx-xxxx) and send texts at high throughput rates.  It is even possible to repurpose an existing toll free number (say the organization’s existing toll free landline) for texting.  White listing is possible to ensure very high deliverability rates.  10 messages per second are supported on toll free.  Phone numbers typically cost on the order of $2 per month, and there is just a 1-2 day lead time required to get these numbers set up.

10DLC (Ten Digit Long Code)

There is a new standard evolving by the carriers that allow high volumes of texts to be sent via a standard ten digit phone number.  For instance, texts could come from 312-555-1212 or any normal looking phone number.  Even if the phone number is a landline or used by voice services, it can still become a 10DLC phone number for texting purposes.  Registration of the organization and use case is required.  Registration typically takes a day or so and costs around $10 plus a quarterly fee of between $6 and $30 depending on the use case.  Registered traffic on 10DLC has very high deliverability.

Migration to Toll Free

If you are using a shared short code, the easiest path forward is to transition to toll free texting.  Prompt.io will work with you and the team to ensure a migration path forward that preserves your opt-in list and works through the compliance issues.  Best practices include:

  • One final message from your shared short code informing supporters that the next text they receive will be from a toll free number.
  • Immediate follow up with a welcome text from the toll free number.  "Welcome to <orgname> and thank you for being opted in to receive texts from our organization. All texts from us will not come from this number — no further texts will be sent from <shortcode>.  Text msg rates apply. Reply STOP to opt out."</shortcode></orgname>
  • Switch out mentions of the short code in your website and other literature.
  • Add a "text opt in" widget (supplied by Prompt.io) to your website so that individuals can input their number to join your opt-in list.

Conclusion

If your organization is using a shared short code, you need to start migrating your texts to a compliant solution.  Whether you wish to use a dedicated short code, toll free or 10DLC, Prompt.io can help your organization identify and quickly implement the right solution.  Migration of your existing subscribers is easy and straightforward.

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