The Messaging Sherpa: Short Codes and Long Codes

Want to extend your customer communications to text messaging (SMS) and broadcast text messages to your subscribers’ cell phones?

Adding the text-messaging channel to your contact center should be fairly straightforward, right? Technically it is. At Mobile Messaging Solutions (MMS), we are experts in all kinds of messaging tools and can get you up and running with text-messaging services in just a few minutes.

But, there is one piece of the text-messaging puzzle that needs more than just a little technical expertise to get into place – the short code.

The Short Code Dilemma A short code is nothing more than a 5 or 6-digit number that is used exclusively for sending and receiving text-messages with application servers. Short codes have been around since 2003 when the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) was created. To get a short code connected, wireless carriers need to make a few adjustments to routing tables, press a few buttons and voilà, it’s done.

sherpa mountain climb summitIf only it were that simple. Unfortunately, the carrier world moves a little more slowly. There are application reviews, approvals, fees, certifications, and other administrative actions that need to be fulfilled before a short code can start running live traffic. All of the paperwork and provisioning takes approximately two months for the carriers to complete. Coupled with the lease fees, provisioning fees, and hosting fees, the process of obtaining a short code becomes a mountain that many companies are reluctant to climb.

Enter the Long Code “I’ve heard about these things called long codes,” a friend tells you. “They are just like regular phone numbers and you can connect them to your text-messaging services in just a couple of days.” Sounds like a good option… but, is it?

At MMS we love long codes. Long codes are relatively new to the text-messaging landscape and, because of some interesting regulations, they can be used without the explicit approval of the wireless carriers. Where a new short code service would take two months to get into place, a new long code service takes two days. So, what’s the catch?

There is a big one. Long codes can only be used for person-to-person type messaging. They cannot be used for broadcasting messages to a list of subscribers. Person-to-person type traffic is interactive. For every message sent, you generally receive one in return. A good example is the inContact Chat for call centers. Here agents communicate one-on-one with customers via the text messaging channel.

Broadcasting a message to a list of subscribers is a one-to-many type service. If you use a long code for this type of service you violate the carriers’ Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and risk having your service permanently disconnected.

So what do you do?

First, seek advice from the experts. Think of MMS as your Sherpa of text-messaging services. We will guide you through the red-tape and technical hurdles of short code and long code services and get your text-messaging channel up and running faster than you can say Tenzing Norgay. You can find us in the iCE Showcase or at www.mms.us.