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What is SMS Short Code

October 17, 2023

Telesign Team
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Specific operators generally use short code numbers–and in some countries, multiple operators can even use the same codes. They have several use cases beneficial to small or large businesses.

Today, we provide a clearer understanding of how short codes potentially suit your needs.

Detailed review of short codes

Before we get into how to use short codes, it helps to understand the concept completely. Let’s discuss the definition, key features, and difference between short and long codes.

A short code is a telephone number usually consisting of five or six digits – unlike long codes, which typically contain ten digits. It’s worth noting that the construction of short codes works differently depending on the country. Some countries use only four digits, while others always start with the same numbers.

These numbers are not limited in how they send messages, meaning they can use both MMS and SMS communication. You can already see how these numbers could be useful if you want customers to memorize them easily for one-way or two-way communication.

Businesses that want to use short codes must apply for them and have a choice of two types:

  • Random short codes: As the name states, these are entirely random numbers. You do not have control over what number you get, but on the plus side, these codes are significantly cheaper to procure.
  • Vanity short codes: If your business prefers a specific short code–perhaps a number significant to your brand–you can apply for a vanity short code. You will get your choice, but it’s worth noting they are much more expensive than random short codes.

Many industries use short codes, from TV shows to marketing teams, often as a security measure, such as two-way authentication or for its mass-messaging functionality.

Key features of short code texting

  • Short numbers–used for one-way or two-way MMS or SMS communication–usually consist of five or six digits.
  • The codes and their structure depend on the countries of use.
  • In certain countries, short codes share a common set of starting or ending numbers. In the United States, short codes never commence with the digit 1.

Differences between short code and long codes

While the obvious difference between short and long codes is the length, there are other differences worth noting.

Short codes:  

  • Can’t receive faxes or calls
  • Are only used for commercial purposes
  • Can send more messages per second (500+ with no carrier filtering) compared to toll-free numbers (around 50 with carrier filtering) and long code numbers (around 10 with carrier filtering)
  • Are the most expensive numbers, ranging from $500 to $1000 per month
  • Have longer approval processes that can take up to four weeks
  • Do not have carrier filtering, so you will not be flagged as spam

Benefits of using short codes in your messaging strategy

They are a logical choice for companies that must message customers often. A high volume of texts means you risk bottlenecking your services without the correct tools, frustrating customers. Let’s review the top three reasons to use short codes, and examples of where these advantages would be applicable.

Faster delivery rates

Short code texting has a significantly higher delivery speed than long code. One of the main reasons is that short codes don’t have carrier filtering. Sending thousands of messages per minute without this method means slower delivery times and an increased risk that your messages will not reach the intended target.

Scenarios where faster delivery rates are crucial:

  • Emergency notifications
  • Login notifications
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Local area emergency warnings
  • Delivery pickup notifications

Improved professional image and better brand recognition

One of the often-overlooked benefits of short code use is that it increases your brand’s reputation and recognition. Although you pay more for the service per month, the approval process to secure such a number means any party aiming to use it for nefarious purposes will likely be rejected.

Scenarios where better brand recognition matters:

  • Sending messages with attached links
  • Account issue alerts
  • Notifications regarding new product offerings
  • Announcements of promotions or sales
  • Reminder notifications for customer appointments

Supports mass texting

The ability to support mass texting is important to many industries. Whether you operate as an online-only store or a brick-and-mortar shop that only sends out messages for delivery notifications, bulk texting is crucial. Without the ability to send volume communications, you risk bottlenecks and information not reaching your customers in time or at all.

Scenarios where mass texting support is necessary:

  • When a business requires rapid mass messaging
  • Sending a notification to thousands of recipients simultaneously
  • A substantial user base actively engaged with your message platform

The role of short code texting in business

Short messages have become a widely used service worldwide, with various uses in many industries. The role of the short code depends on the business but largely revolves around the ability to send information at high volume, high speed, and without carrier filtering.

Depending on the business requirements, short codes can also help with the following:

Marketing campaigns

One of the more popular uses is to promote marketing campaigns. This texting format works well for marketing because it can send more than 500 messages per second without carrier filtering, which often marks messages as spam if they contain specific keywords.

However, you can send calls to action, links, and campaign promotions without the risk of being marked as spam. This process helps ensure your messages reach your audience unhindered.

Customer support

Customer support benefits massively from short code texting. Clients can easily memorize the number to get quick assistance. Examples of customer support include various industries, from internet service providers to tech assistance from computer shops.

Two-factor authentication

This security measure is popular as an extra layer of protection for millions of individuals. Many apps integrate two-factor authentication so nobody can access an account without a code. These codes usually have a short lifespan, making them impossible to falsify.

Short code texts allow your business to send two-way authentication codes for millions of users without hindering your other outgoing messages.


Many types of alerts utilize the message speed and limits of short code texting. This system uses everything from account login alerts to appointment reminders and booking confirmations to delivery notifications. Long-code texting would hamper how many messages you can send per minute.

A lower message-per-second limit can lead to more bottlenecks and customer frustration, particularly in time-sensitive scenarios where promptly receiving a message is crucial.

Key features to expect from Telesign

Telesign offers a range of beneficial features for clients who want to use short code texting. Whether your business requires it primarily for promotional messages or improved security, Telesign has a feature for you. Let’s discover some notable features you can expect.

High quality, direct-to-carrier routes

Telesign’s routes allow you to connect directly to an extensive range of carriers worldwide. You can optimize them for speed, reliability, and high SMS deliverability. High deliverability refers to measures that ensure your texts reach your intended customers without filtering problems or being falsely marked as spam.

Phone number cleansing

Our phone number cleansing will format numbers correctly for accurate message delivery.

Compliance support

We provide free regulatory assistance that can help mitigate Telephone Consumer Protection Act risks. Our regulatory support also adheres to worldwide content compliance.

Opt-out management

Customers should always be able to opt out of messages they no longer want to receive. We simplify setting up Telesign SenderIDs for automated management of SMS opt-out requests. It’s less work for you and more convenient for your customers.

Inbound SMS for interactive two-way communications

Our systems make it simple to send and receive global text messages. You can use these messages to listen, engage, and support customers. All industries need customer support, and making yours more accessible and easier to use means customers will likely prefer your brand.

Long message support

When you send messages over 160 characters, we can separate them into different messages based on device type and other operator requirements. This feature then sends it to the user’s handset with instructions to reassemble the text in the correct order as one SMS through a provided link.

Smart message splitting

Our smart message splitting means that our systems keep integral parts of a message, such as URLs or email addresses, together. This feature means your clients will never receive broken texts that are hard to understand.

URL shortener and activity tracking

We offer a free service that shortens URLs into fewer characters where necessary. This shortening service makes sending links within the limits much simpler. Whether for sending calls-to-action or for more in-depth customer engagement metric tracking, our URL shortener is the way to do it.

Reliable global coverage

At Telesign, we can help you reach customers in over 200 countries and territories in 87 languages. Regardless of your company type, we are an excellent choice for local or global interactions.

Waterfall failover system

There’s little point in sending thousands of messages if there is an elevated risk of not reaching your clients’ phones. We apply automatic fallback via dynamic routing to a secondary provider in the event of delivery failure over the first provider. This process means a much more reliable delivery.

SMS campaign management

With our tools, you can build and distribute targeted SMS campaigns easily. We use a dynamic dashboard with messaging templates and detailed reporting statistics on delivery status. These tools help your SMS campaigns have much better feedback for further optimization.

Optimize short code texting with Telesign

While modern person-to-person communication relies heavily on third-party communication services, SMS tools have become integral to so many businesses. Connecting with clients has never been more convenient, as they typically keep their mobile phones within arm’s reach throughout the day.

Leveraging Telesign’s distinctive product offerings allows you to enhance the responsiveness of your company’s SMS services while concurrently fortifying your security. Our range of features caters to any company in any industry, regardless of the size of the client base.

Contact our sales team today if you are ready to start using Telesign for better intelligence, identity, and verification technology.