Choosing a phone number

Overview 

There are three types of phone numbers through which brands can engage in SMS Marketing in the US: Short Codes, 10 Digit Long Code (10 DLC), and Toll-Free Number.

Short Codes

Short Codes are five to six digit numbers that brands can purchase and use to send SMS and MMS messages. There are two types of short codes: random and vanity. Random as the name suggests is a short code number allotted on a random basis. Vanity short codes are specifically chosen by brands based on their preferences from the available codes.

Throughput

The number of SMSs that can be sent per second. Short Codes have the highest throughput.

Standard Throughput

The standard throughput is 100 messages/second/short code.

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

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 short codes as applications that had a pandemic-related need were given a higher priority.

Cost

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

  • Setup: 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 at a later date for the $500 fee and an additional application process).
  • Recurring: 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.

Leasing a Short Code

Short codes can also be leased through usshortcodes.com. 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.

10 Digit Long Code (10-DLC)

A 10 Digit Long Code (10DLC) 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.

Standard Throughput

The standard throughput 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.

Timeline to provision

To get a 10-DLC number, the brand must have completed the US A2P brand registration. In such a case,  one to five days is the usual timeframe within which the 10-DLC gets allocated.

Cost

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

  • Setup: The setup cost is around $0-$44. A Campaign activation fee of $50 is charged by T-mobile for most use cases.
  • Recurring: The recurring cost too is low when compared to short codes and is around $0-10/month/number.

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 number. 

Standard Throughput

The standard throughput is 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 short codes tend to be very expensive. When the brand begins to grow significantly over time, they would require higher throughput, and having the option to purchase of additional throughput on the toll-free number is a great option for them. 

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 short code with a standard throughput of 100 messages/second.

Timeline to provision

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

Cost

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

  • Setup: The setup cost is $1. 
  • Recurring: 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.
 

NOTE

  • CTIA does not allow any numbers (short codes, 10 DLC, and toll-free) to be shared.  In the past, short codes 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 short code. They must have their own numbers.
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