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Shared short codes banned: A simple explainer [2024]

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the not-too-distant past, shared short SMS codes were considered the perfect solution to mass SMS marketing

It turns out that was a myth. In fact, in 2021, mobile carrier companies in the US updated their regulations to state that they would no longer support shared short codes. This move was intended to prevent spam and provide safer network access to consumers. 

At the time, the announcement came as a shock to brands who relied on shared short codes to send text messages to their customers. 

By now, brands have had time to adjust to this update and use dedicated sending numbers, but here’s a quick explainer for any of you who missed it or have any questions, starting with the basics.

What is a shared short code?

Short codes are numbers pre-approved by carriers, for businesses to send text messages to consumers. They are five or six digits long, and a shared short code is when the same number is used by more than one business.

Shared short codes were beneficial because of the high throughput, but they also increased the risk of spam complaints.

Why were shared short codes banned?

While shared short codes were convenient for brands, they also caused a number of problems that ultimately led to them being banned:

  1. Increased risk of spam from illegitimate senders: Shared short codes meant that multiple brands could send text messages from the same address, leaving doors open to any illegitimate businesses that wanted to spam their customers.
  2. Increased spam complaints and reduced sender reputation: Customers naturally reported a shared short code SMS if they felt it was too spammy. This meant that if one company faced spam complaints, then so did all the others on that code. Honest brands using the same shared short code SMS were often penalized.
  3. Reduced deliverability and traffic blocking: Because of the increased spam complaints, these legitimate brands also faced reduced SMS deliverability and traffic blocking for no fault of their own.

Proven alternatives to SMS shared short codes

Having a single, dedicated SMS sending number is the new SMS marketing norm. Here’s a short rundown giving more details on all the dedicated number options merchants can choose from: 

FeaturesToll-free numbers10-digit long codesShort codes
Example1-800-012-98761-201-123-987612121 or 123456
Messaging typeA2PP2P or A2PA2P
Ideal forCommercial messagingMass textingLarge SMS subscriber lists
ProvisioningInstant / Up to 2 daysInstantUp to 8 weeks
2-way messagingYesYesYes
Vetting requiredNoYesYes
Campaign approvalRecommendedRequiredRequired
Approval and setup time1-3 days2-3 weeks8-12 weeks
Throughput / Messages Per SecondWith Omnisend, 40-60 MPS Up to 30 MPS Up to 400 MPS
Cost$$$$$$

10DLCs

10-digit long codes are a popular option for commercial (A2P) messaging. Unlike the previously popular P2P (peer-to-peer) local long numbers, A2P 10DLCs are supported for mass-texting and are less filtered by major mobile carriers. 

Note: If you want to choose 10DLC as your dedicated number option, make sure your current SMS provider of long numbers specifically supports the A2P 10DLC type of infrastructure to maintain your deliverability. Your default sending speed should be higher than 1mps, and you shouldn’t need to buy multiple sending numbers when using an A2P 10DLC number.

Dedicated toll-free numbers

Unlike 10DLCs, toll-free numbers are a tried-and-tested option for brands who do commercial messaging and care about their deliverability. This type of sending number has a high throughput, is approved for mass-texting, and can be instantly provisioned. 

Note: Omnisend provides a high throughput (40-60mps) dedicated toll-free number to each brand free of charge. If you’re considering using this option with a different SMS provider, take into consideration the additional monthly costs that might apply for obtaining a toll-free number and increasing your throughput.

Dedicated short codes

Using a dedicated short code is the priciest option of all dedicated sending numbers, and it takes the longest time to get them provisioned (up to eight weeks). However, it offers better customer experience and has the highest throughput over other options. If you have a large SMS subscriber list (e.g. over 100,000 subscribers) and want to send out high volume campaigns in a matter of minutes, a dedicated short code might be the best option. 

What can Omnisend users do if shared short codes are unavailable?

Omnisend has never used shared short codes and, by default, Omnisend uses free of charge, dedicated toll-free US sending numbers.

What this means for our customers: 

  • There is no need to change or migrate your sending number
  • You will not face any extra costs or throughput surcharges
  • Your shoppers already receive your messages from a single, dedicated US number

Want to see how you can actually put SMS to use in your own marketing? Then this video is unmissable: 

To sum up, SMS is a powerful channel and we support efforts that develop and strengthen trust in it. If you’re not convinced by SMS yet, consider this: in the first half of 2023, Omnisend merchants saw a 16.9% increase in the number of SMS-driven orders.

Drive more sales and scale your SMS marketing with Omnisend
Richard White
Article by
Richard White

Richard is a Content Marketing Manager at Omnisend. An avid writer, he's said to have been born holding a pencil. Fascinated by all things handmade, if he's not reading or writing he can often be found practicing leathercraft.


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