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SMS Short Codes and Long Codes

Should I care?

  • 25 December 2016
  • Author: Sean Mcdonald
  • Number of views: 4472
SMS Short Codes and Long Codes

Long codes and Short codes, should I care? 

Whilst each (long codes and short codes) have advantages and disadvantages, we think you should choose the one that provides your audience and the consumer with the best level of protection from unwanted messages (SPAM). With the introduction of the new anti-spam legislation in October of 2013 (TCPA and CASL), the penalties for delivery text messages to an unsuspecting consumer is at minimum $1500 US PER MESSAGE. 

Aside from the legal aspects and associated costs of failing to comply, the consumer has the right to choose who they receive messages from, how many, how often and when. More importantly, they have the right to unsubscribe at any time. 

At MOBIT, our vision and purpose has always been to protect the integrity of the mobile channel and more importantly, to ensure that only those people that wish to receive messages on this channel do so. We have all lived through email marketing and the vast amounts of spam we now receive on a daily basis. Imagine this level of spam being delivered to our mobile phone SMS inbox. NO THANKS. The answer to the question above requires an understanding of certain rules and capabilities that are determined by both the country you are in and the carrier you are working with.

Gaining a complete picture of the capabilities, limitations and rules around short codes and long codes is a challenge because carriers often change their rules and capabilities and few companies have the resources to track and test each update. As this is a conversation that we have with our clients on a daily basis we have put together a few simple points to help you understand short code vs long codes.

SMS and MMS Short Codes (e.g. 72000)

An SMS ‘short code’ is generally between three (3) and six (6) numbers.  

As a rule, consumer protection regulations put in place by organizations such as the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the CTIA (The Wireless Association) requires companies using short codes to ask permission before contacting an individual and to provide a certain level of value in exchange. 

Not only does this protect the consumer but it also allows you to run a more successful campaign as it helps you to build a greater rapport with your target consumers on their mobile device. SMS Long Codes are not subject to the same degree of attention and are therefore often seen as SPAM on the carriers networks and rejected as such.

Short codes are carrier approved 

Each short code is submitted and approved by carriers before running on their network. The process for this rigorous application takes around 12 -15 weeks. Once approved, short code providers are then allowed to send and receive marketing or notification messages across the carrier networks. The amount that can be sent to a carrier depends both on the deal and technical limitations of the messaging provider’s platform.

Dedicated Short Codes

Dedicated short codes are very expensive. They range between $1,200 - $1,500 per month and require an initial setup fee of $2,000 - $5,000. 

Large companies sometimes opt for a dedicated short code to ensure that their image and branding are upheld. When having a dedicated short code, no other brand can promote their code or send messages on it. 

Your short code is part of your brand. Further, a brand can select the numbers that they want for their short code and even spell out a specific word to align with their brand’s identity. Every time a company sends a marketing message to their customers, they are sending it from the same short code, which helps to cement and build the brand’s identity and relationship with the customer. Over time, this number will be just as noteworthy as a brand’s logo and corporate identity. Next, a dedicated code enables that brand to be the first line of support for the customer, opposed to using a universal help message from the SMS vendor. Lastly, by using a dedicated short code, every message sent from that short code will be from the same brand and not confused with other messages from other brands.

Shared Short Codes

For the most part, 90% of companies would generally use a shared short code that is provided to them by their messaging provider. In the case of MOBIT, this shared short code number is 72000 in the USA and Canada. Each provider generally sells plans and packages that offers their customers the ability to use their short code, have their own keyword, and an allotted amount of text messages a month for a specified fee.  Shared short codes are an excellent way for any size of business to save money on text (SMS or MMS) campaigns.  Messaging providers usually have a variety of text messaging packages to accommodate the needs of a variety of business needs.  
By using this type of service, a business can send instant text message (SMS or MMS) to a single contact all the way up to thousands.  Sharing a short code is the most cost effective way to send mobile messages.


  • Short codes are more memorable (e.g. Text GROW to 72000) and easy to use for the consumer.
  • Short codes are bound by a stringent set of guidelines set down by Neustar and the carrier associations around the world.
  • Carriers either have an internal audit team or hire an external audit firm to monitor messaging campaigns live in market.
  • Carriers can change, allow, or add new features to short codes for companies, especially since they are a source of revenue for the carriers.
  • Can be instantly responded to at a point of sale or whilst consumers are mobile.
  • Campaigns can be measured accurately and immediately. Only short code messaging can be fully monitored from initial point of entry to the carrier networks, all the way through to the handset.
  • Allow you to capture consumer data for future permission-based marketing campaigns. Long codes are not allowed to be used for marketing purposes.
  • Depending on the provider, short code message throughput is between 40 – 90 messages per second versus only 1 message per second for long codes.


  • Dedicated short codes have a set cost to purchase plus high ongoing fees. This is why shared short codes providers are more popular with most companies.
  • Short codes are limited to national boarders, short codes must be approved and activated for each country by their carrier associations or authorized body.
  • You cannot call a short code number.

SMS and MMS Long Codes

A long code is an actual 10-digit phone number, which can be appealing if your company is local. Long codes are fine for companies looking to use SMS for notifications, alerts and other such activities but cannot be used for marketing purposes. Long codes are a good choice when a company would like to reach customers internationally. MOBIT for example use carrier approved international long codes for this purpose and route all ‘out of country’ messages via this number.  

We also receive all international messages to this number, and have the unique ability to track the inbound device number to the specific mobile campaign. We are the only company in the world with this intelligent capability. 

Long codes are typically free or very inexpensive to use. Besides these few positives, long codes come with a lot of negative baggage. 

Unlike short codes, long codes do not have definitive guidelines for acceptable use in the United States or Canada, and therefore lack any best practices recommendations. Long codes are not submitted to carriers and are not required to go through an approval process in the same way that short codes are. 

Long codes are inexpensive and unregulated, which is why text message spammers relish using long codes. Finally, the messaging throughput with long codes is slower than a sloth creeping down a tree for his afternoon snack. In fact, leading providers can still only send 1 message per second on a long code. That makes sending a messaging blast to a one million person database an 11 day adventure.



  • They are cheap if not free. Prices depend on how you acquire your long code, but usually you will pay either a small set-up cost or incur an ongoing cost of a few dollars a month
  • You can send internationally (international rates apply) but the message throughput is still only 1 message per second
  • Because long codes are unregulated, they do not require customers to opt-in to marketing messages. This does expose the marketer to hefty fines from the TCPA and CASL though if the correct opt in process is not used
  • Users can send messages and make calls from the same number
  • Easy setup and possible to launch same day. Shared short codes are similar in this respect.


  • Long Codes are not carrier approved in the USA and Canada and cannot be used for broadcast marketing. This is the greatest disadvantage for long codes in the USA and Canada.
  • Long codes are limited to throughput rates of one (1) message per second.
  • Long codes are 10 digits long and hard to remember.
  • Long codes are often used by spammers, hence why carriers regularly block or drop long code traffic.
  • Long code providers cannot guarantee message delivery to the consumer’s mobile device.
  • Long codes are not approved for marketing by the TCPA/CTIA.
  • Long code traffic is not prioritized like short code traffic. Messages can sometimes wait long periods of time to be sent.
  • Carriers generally ‘drop’ 40 – 60% of long code traffic if the source is ‘server based traffic’ i.e. not from handset to handset.
  • Since long codes don’t follow MMA, CTIA, or carrier guidelines, both carriers and consumers can sue the party for sending unsolicited messages.
  • Long codes are generally charged for both inbound and outbound messages e.g. 5 cents for each. With short codes, you only pay for outbound.

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