Mobile carriers announce they’re ending shared short codes, but don’t say when

Shared Short Codes have been a popular way for many marketers to get started in SMS. They allow for multiple brands to send from the same 5 or 6-digit number, giving them the ability to try SMS as a channel without having to pay for their own dedicated short code. While growing retailers like the cost savings, carriers have become uncomfortable with the compliance implications and announced a major change.

Say goodbye to shared codes 

The U.S. mobile carriers have announced that they will no longer be supporting shared short codes. From their perspective, with multiple companies on one code, it’s harder for them to police the behavior of individual senders. They also acknowledge that it doesn’t provide the best user experience—brands would never share an email domain, so why should SMS be any different?

At the end of 2019, the carriers stopped provisioning new shared short codes. But they’ve also announced that at an undisclosed date, they’ll be shutting down shared short codes completely. When that announcement is made, any marketer using a shared code will need to find a new way to send.

Long codes lack the scale

For some very small businesses, a long code (which is just a full phone number) may be the best path forward. The fees are substantially lower, but these longer numbers lack the ability to send messages at scale. At most, they can only deliver 1 message a second. That’s fine for a personal mobile device, but for a brand, it means a send to 50,000 subscribers could take almost 14 hours. This is why you typically only see these long codes used for two-way customer service tools.

Programs at scale will need a dedicated short code

Dedicated short codes can send messages at over 100-times the volume of a long code while providing the added security of knowing your program can’t be shut down by a bad actor sharing your code. This is really the only solution for an SMS marketing program at scale.

Ultimately, if you’re on a shared short code now, know that it’s not permanent. While the carriers haven’t announced when they’ll stop supporting shared short codes entirely, they have let marketers know to expect it. We would recommend you start considering the cost of a dedicated short code in your budgets now so you aren’t caught off guard when the inevitable happens.


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Wunderkind, Formerly BounceX