For organizations doing SMS, the default approach should be using a short code. The entire short code ecosystem was created to cater to organization text messaging rather than individuals. Short codes have specific benefits around messaging throughput, deliverability and stability of the channel. If your organization is using a short code, you can be reasonably certain that the short code will work. The same cannot be said of long codes – they are less reliable.
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If you’re a brand, non-profit or business, use a long code unless you have a specific reason not to.
The downside of dealing with short codes is all of the process around them. Whereas long codes are cheap and can be setup in minutes, a short code is costly, requires an application and can take a long time to be set up. In the US, all short codes are acquired from the Short Code Registry. https://usshortcodes.com/ Even if your vendor/partner is providing the short code, at some point they are dealing with the registry.
Once a shortcode is leased from the short code registry, it needs to be provisioned. This process connects the shortcode to the carrier networks. Provisioning is done by aggregators, which are the hosting companies in the SMS space. Getting the shortcode provisioned takes a lot longer than one would like, 8-12 weeks. In the application it’s possible to specify what organization is leasing the code and there can also be a different organization that manages the code. So a vendor should be able to easily help with the application. The applicant also shares some information as to the type of messaging campaigns they plan to run. Pro Tip: Messaging can be a dynamic channel so it’s best to share very broad use cases on the application.
Pro Tip: Most organizations will have a vendor involved in their messaging programs. Have the vendor help procure the short code.
Expected Cost and Timeline: Short codes cost about a thousand dollars per month, but can vary depending on a few variables. Once the application is submitted an organization can expect 8-12 weeks before the application is approved and the short code can launch. In an annoying detail, an organization needs to license the short code before submitting the application. So essentially there is a $3,000 setup cost and a 3 month timeline before a short code can launch.
If this sounds like a dealbreaker, don’t worry. Soon we’re going to explore more options regarding short codes.