Shared short codes are 5 or 6 digit phone numbers that are shared by multiple organizations or businesses. A person will sign up to be texted by an organization by texting a keyword -- essentially subscribing or opting in to receive texts from a specific brand.
When multiple brands are using the same short code for texting, managing opt outs becomes impossible and creates a very poor user experience. For instance, if Sally replies STOP to Brand A’s text message, none of the other brands are able to contact Sally. A carrier keyword like STOP removes the ability for Sally to be contacted forevermore on that shortcode.
A worse and more odious problem exists for shared short codes. A bad actor that utilizes a short code improperly can lead to the entire short code being shut down. If Brand A were to send illegal or improper messages to their opt-in list, the carriers have full right to shut down ALL traffic on the short code, which would effectively deny service to all other compliant brands and lead to massive disruption.
As a result, the use of shared short codes is now considered non-compliant at the carrier level. Here is the exact language used by ATT in a recent communication:
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.
And, the relevant section from their directive on this matter:
Delivery rates are beginning to fall as carriers are now aggressively blocking traffic on shared short code traffic on their networks.
There are three pathways for businesses wishing to migrate from share short codes, each with advantages and disadvantages to consider:
Dedicated Short Code
An organization can apply for and lease their own dedicated 5-6 digit short code. This process takes 3-4 months. Typically, short codes cost around $1,000 per month just to lease the phone number. But, for high volume, high deliverability, a dedicated short code can be the way to go. 100 messages per second or more are supported by short codes.
It is possible to light up a toll free phone number (1-800-xxx-xxxx) and send texts at high throughput rates. It is even possible to repurpose an existing toll free number (say the organization’s existing toll free landline) for texting. White listing is possible to ensure very high deliverability rates. 10 messages per second are supported on toll free. Phone numbers typically cost on the order of $2 per month, and there is just a 1-2 day lead time required to get these numbers set up.