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Understanding the New AT&T Ban on Shared SMS Short Codes

You may have heard that AT&T plans to terminate all shared short codes. Here are the latest details and how to prepare.

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In October of 2018, AT&T shared a new version of its A2P Code of Conduct.

In it, they announced that no new shared short codes will be activated and existing ones will be terminated at a future date. Other carriers are likely to do the same. When exactly? Well, it’s hard to say. Here’s the exact language AT&T used:

All existing shared short codes will be terminated at a future date to be determined and will be consistent with the commercial availability of 10DLC A2P messaging. This will formally be communicated with appropriate advance notice.

We’re now in 2020, and shared short codes are still in use. Here’s everything you need to know about shared short code developments in the last two years and what you can do to prepare for the potential changes to come.

What Exactly Is a Shared Short Code for SMS?

A short code is a 5 to 6-digit number used to send and receive messages. (E.g. 94090) Businesses love them because they’re easy to remember.

The thing is, they’re really expensive. If you want one all to yourself, the leasing fees begin at $1,000 per month and are set directly by the Common Short Code Administration. (The agency that oversees all short codes in the U.S.)

As the name implies, shared short codes are used by multiple businesses. At SimpleTexting, we take care of all the complicated stuff—provisioning the short code, preventing spam, etc.—so you can focus on your messages. Because you “share” the short code with other businesses, we can offer plans as low as $29/month for use of a short code as opposed to $1,000.

So Why Does AT&T Want to Block Shared Short Codes?

While they didn’t explicitly say why, it’s widely known that this change is because carriers want to do two things:

1. Reduce Spam and Increase Reliability
We diligently monitor traffic on our short codes to make sure they’re never used to send spam. Unfortunately, not all SMS service providers are this careful. When a carrier detects spam, they shut down the entire short code.

If thousands of businesses use the short code, they’re all affected—even if it was just one bad apple.

2. Make 10DLC the New Standard
Currently, 10-digit numbers are only sanctioned for P2P communication and can only send around one message per second. This isn’t great if you need to text 100,000 people. It’s likely that carriers will introduce 10DLC A2P messaging in the near future.

This will allow 10-digit numbers to be used to text large groups at much higher speeds, much like short codes.

What does this mean for your business? Imagine being able to send massive text blasts from a dedicated number with an area code that your customers recognize. Carriers have yet to work out all of the details of 10DLC, such as cost. Rest assured, as soon as we learn more, we’ll share it here.

What Should I Do If I Use a Shared Short Code?

First off, don’t panic. This isn’t the end of text marketing! Far from it. Plus, we’re here to help. If you’re on a shared short code now, you can stay on it. As soon as an official timeline is shared, we’ll be in touch to make the transition to a new number as smooth as possible. Here’s what to do if you want to take proactive action:

Use a Dedicated Toll-Free Number
You can choose a toll-free number which can be used for mass texting and 2-way messaging. If you don’t use keywords to build your contact lists (e.g. Text CHURCH to 94090), this number should suit all your needs.

If you do want to use keywords, it’s more convenient for customers if you have an easy-to-remember number. You could acquire a vanity toll-free number (e.g. 1-800-PIZZA) from a third party such as for around $4.49/month. We’ll text-enable it for you!

[Read: How to Pick the Right Number for Your SMS Marketing Efforts]

Final Thoughts on the AT&T Shared Short Code Ban

The text messaging industry is always changing. That’s why it’s important to select an SMS service that will act as a partner and help you easily navigate these kinds of developments. Our support team is available seven days per week if you have any questions.

Alfredo Salkeld
Alfredo Salkeld

Alfredo is SimpleTexting's brand manager. He's passionate about using his 10+ years of marketing experience to help small businesses grow.

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