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U.S. SMS Long Codes vs. Short Codes? What is Best for My Use Case?

February 25, 2015 Published by

iStock_000001130338Large_resizedIn the United States, there are strict regulations that dictate how businesses should interact with end users via SMS. Sending an SMS incorrectly can result in an immediate shutdown of your service, or worse fines of up to $1500 per message. The two most common ways to send SMS messages in the U.S. are using a long code or a short code as the Sender ID (a Sender ID is the “from” address of a text message). This post will assist you in understanding the differences between the 2 options and help you choose which option is best for your use case.

Long Codes

First, let’s talk about long codes (also known as Long Virtual Numbers, LVNs or long numbers). Long codes are essentially 10 digit phone numbers designated by the mobile operators for person-to-person communication. Some sample use cases include chat applications, anonymous dating applications, and customer service communications.

Other facts to know about long codes:

  •   Messages are limited to 1 message per second
  •   No setup time needed
  •   Many different local area codes are available for region-specific needs

iStock_000024018472Large_resizedShort Codes

Now, let’s talk about short codes. A short code (also known as a Common Short Code or CSC) is a 5-6 digit phone number managed by a 3rd party company called Neustar. Service providers manage the short code lease on customers behalf. Users “opt-in” to SMS programs by texting a keyword to a short code or by entering their mobile number in a web form. Short codes support high-volume messaging and can reach many different users at once. Common use cases are:

  •   Alert notifications
  •   Two-factor authentication (often abbreviated to 2FA)
  •   Mobile coupons and marketing promotions

Below is a quick guide to help you navigate through the different requirements of both options:

  U.S. Long Code U.S. Short Code
Format A 10-digit number (i.e 1-415-555-6319) A 5-6 digit number (i.e. 54513)
Uses Non-marketing, customer service, and chat applications High-volume uses, like marketing, school/flight/appointment reminders.
Setup Time Instant Nexmo pre-approved: 1-2 business days.  Dedicated: 8-12 weeks
Throughput 1 mps High throughput (10 mps +)
Delivery Receipts Not supported

Supports delivery receipts

Max messages per day Traffic must be bi-directional No maximum

See our pricing page

Regulatory Immediate code shutdown for marketing messages. Subject to carrier filtering. CTIA and TCPA Guidelines.

For more information about Nexmo’s long code and short code offering, visit our Short Codes page.

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