Text “FAREWELL” to Shared Short Codes: Why and What to Do Next

Jul 14, 2022

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For as long as we can remember, shared short codes have been a convenient and cost-effective way for text vendors to consolidate their SMS and MMS services under one versatile umbrella. Considering that up to a thousand companies could share a single short code without much hassle on their end, it’s no surprise why it’s become a go-to way to quickly roll out an A2P (application-to-person) marketing campaign and solicit responses from users with ease. But there’s a major issue with using a shared short code: they’ve always been unsafe. Shared short codes have always posed risks to the security and reputation of the businesses who use them and most cellular providers have already moved to ban the practice. Given this current paradigm shift, we thought it would be helpful to provide more details as to why this is happening and what you can do to move to a safer, more compliant solution.

Why the Change?

The issues presented by sharing a short code extend into a couple of categories, and they’re not the kind of obstacles that should be treated like mere speed bumps. For starters, whenever a carrier detects suspicious behavior (like message spam) from a short code, they’ll often respond by suspending all traffic from that short code. This doesn’t bode well for any business sharing that short code, as all traffic to and from that code will be null and void until the carrier drops the suspension, which can take months. It won’t matter how saintly you’ve been on the code, as you and all other clients on it will shoulder the consequences of that one killjoy who decided to abuse it. Besides, even if everyone on the code decided to play by the rules, carriers still have their hands full when it comes to monitoring them, as many are used by hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of companies at a time. Given how many migraines they’ve caused for wireless providers over the years, it’s remarkable that it took as long as it did for them to decide that enough is enough.

What Are My Options?

Now that most carriers have decided that enough is, in fact, enough, it would be wise for any company on a shared short code to consider an alternative. Fortunately, you have a couple of options if you still need to leave your shared short code behind.

  • Dedicated Short Code: Not interested in moving away from a short code? Get your own! The process of getting carriers to approve your new short code can take a while (roughly 8-12 weeks), and they are a little pricey at $500 a month for a random code and up to $1,000 for a vanity code. However, the cost per SMS and MMS is often much less expensive, especially at scale. A short code might be more cost-effective if you plan to send more than 200,000 texts per month. Going through the provisioning process (carrier approval) means that carriers have specifically reviewed and approved your business’s plans for that short code. While it’s timely and a little more expensive initially, it’s the best way to avoid getting the wind cut from your sails by a bad actor and potentially having your program shut down.

  • Toll-Free Numbers: If the idea of shelling out that much cash for a short code just isn’t in the cards for you at the moment, toll-free numbers are a solid substitute! They’re also an excellent option for businesses that don’t plan on sending hundreds of thousands of texts per month. The provisioning process for a TFN is basically the same as a short code but faster, currently averaging around 15 days. Messaging via a toll-free number comes with a few benefits, including shorter approval times and much lower monthly hosting fees. You can either expand upon a number that you’ve been using or get a new number approved just for messaging purposes.

Both of these options also excel when needed for B2B (business-to-business) communication, as they can be handy when needed to send messages to employees and interface with other clients. If the number of messages involved is small, a toll-free number would fit well, while a larger company could use a short code as a channel to communicate with multiple vendors all at once.

Although the days of short code sharing might be well behind us, that doesn’t mean we need to glance wistfully in the rearview mirror and wonder if we made the right call. Given the gray hairs that have been grown by carrier employees over them, the need for a replacement has been pivotal for a while, and the choices above should serve to inspire where you decide to go with your B2C services in a post-shared shortcode age.

Any additional questions regarding dedicated codes or toll-free messaging?

Feel free to get in touch with us, and we’d be delighted to help you discover which option suits your business best!