Choosing a phone number

Types of Phone Numbers

There are three types of phone numbers through which brands can engage in SMS Marketing in the US:

  1. Short Codes - Short Codes are five to six-digit numbers brands can purchase and use to send SMS and MMS messages. There are two types of shortcodes: random and vanity. Random, as the name suggests, is a short code number allotted randomly. Brands specifically choose vanity shortcodes based on their preferences from the available codes.
  2. Leasing a Short Code - Shortcodes can also be leased through Most vendors charge a management fee in the case of a lease, and this adds to the total cost. Thus, there is only a negligible difference between leasing a short code and purchasing one directly.
  3. 10 Digit Long Code (10-DLC) - A 10 Digit Long Code (10-DLC) is utilized for A2P (Application to Person) messaging within the United States. 10DLC was restricted from use for messaging related to marketing activities until 2021. 10-digit numbers or local numbers can be selected as the 10DLC by a brand.

Verified Toll-Free Numbers

Toll-Free numbers are 10-digit numbers that operate at no cost to the consumer and hence the name toll-free. Toll-Free numbers are designated for business messaging and are required to go through a verification process prior to use.  Brands that have their own toll-free numbers that are already being used for voice can apply to use the same number to send A2P messaging for their brand.

Options - Applicants can select from a list of available numbers or bring their own numbers.

Comparing Phone Number Types

Here is a comparison of the various phone number types based on their throughput (The number of SMSs that can be sent per second. ), timeline to provision, and cost.

Phone Number Type/Metric Shortcode


Verified Toll-Free Numbers

Standard Throughput

100 messages/second/shortcode

Short Codes have the highest throughput.

Note: Some providers allow brands to pay more for increased throughput on a short code.

Initially, it was one message/second when 10-DLCs were launched, but now it varies based on the brand’s Trust Score and Use Case (campaign) type.  Some carriers, such as T-mobile, also impose daily message limits on A2P messages sent over 10-DLC.

Three messages/second Additional throughput can be purchased on a number for an additional cost.  This can be a great option for a new brand, as shortcodes are expensive. When the brand begins to grow significantly over time, it would require higher throughput, and having the option to purchase additional throughput on the toll-free number is a great option.

Additional throughputs of 25, 50, 75, 100, 125, and 150 messages/second can be purchased for additional fees through some vendors.  The cost of a toll-free number with 100 messages/second throughput is the same cost as a random shortcode with a standard throughput of 100 messages/second.

Timeline to provision

Short codes are usually allotted within 8-12 weeks after the acceptance of the application. However,  it can take longer than that too! For instance, during the early stages of the pandemic, carriers took more time than usual to provide shortcodes as applications with a pandemic-related need were given a higher priority. To get a 10-DLC number, the brand must have completed the US A2P brand registration. In such a case,  one to five days are the usual timeframe within which the 10-DLC gets allocated.

Toll-free numbers are usually allocated within a few days to a week from the time of application.

Total cost consideration

The typical cost involved is the setup fee, recurring cost, and management fee. The setup fee and recurring cost rates can vary across providers.

The upfront cost or the setup cost is low, and the recurring cost varies by use case.

There is a small set-up fee and recurring cost associated with toll-free numbers.

Setup cost

The setup cost is around $500-$1000 with an additional cost of $500 if the number needs to be approved to send MMS (this can be added later for the $500 fee and an additional application process).

The setup cost is around $0-$44. T-mobile charges a Campaign activation fee of $50 for most use cases.

The setup cost is $1.

Recurring cost

Recurring costs are charged on a quarterly basis. For a random number, the charge is $3000, and for a vanity number, the charge is $4500. Discounts are often available for annual payments.

The recurring cost is also low compared to shortcodes and is around $0-10/month/number.

For a randomly allocated number, the recurring cost is $2/month, and the cost is 50 cents per month when the brand brings its own number.



CTIA does not allow any numbers (shortcodes, 10 DLC, and toll-free) to be shared.  In the past, shortcodes could be shared by many brands, but in 2021, the CTIA moved away from that support and now prohibits sharing of numbers.  For Example, the GAP owns many brands, but their brands, Athleta and Old Navy, cannot share the same shortcode. They must have their own numbers.

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