January 22, 2012

How to Get a SMS Shortcode in US

A SMS is a very effective way to interact with your users; every mobile phone is likely to have SMS. Here is how to get a SMS shortcode in US.

Twilio SMS shortcodes

SMS shortcodes are 4 or 5-digits long but they are not the only method to send and receive SMS from your users. First decide which method would work best for your users-

A longcode is a full 10-digit phone number. A 10-digit number is used to send and receive SMS from your users e.g. 212-555-1212

  1. Any 10-digit number can be used for this purpose. No approvals from carriers are needed and no additional fees are incurred.
  2. US and International users can use the same 10-digit number.
A 10-digit number is harder to remember for users (unless it is a vanity number) i.e. response rates from users may decrease because they cannot remember your number.

Dedicated Shortcode
A dedicated shortcode belongs only to you and you do not have to share it with others (see below). e.g. 75395

The pros of shortcodes is that it is easy to remember by users and will produce better response rates.

The cons of shortcodes is that it can only be used by US users. If your service runs in other countries also, then you need to get a shortcode for each country. Shortcodes also incur additional fees, lease and usage fees.

Shared Shortcode
You share a shortcode with others. Each service on that shortcode is assigned a keyword by the shortcode owner. When a user sends a SMS to you, they need to prefix their message with your keyword.

A shared shortcode will be less expensive than a dedicated shortcode but requires the user to remember two items – the shortcode and keyword – therefore the response rates may be lesser compared to a dedicated shortcode.

There are many provides of shared shortcodes such as Mozes, TextMarks, Txt180, Mobivity and others. Pricing is typically 2 to 4 cents per text message.

Providers of dedicated shortcodes include Twilio, OTAir and others. Twilio pricing includes a
Lease Fee (min lease for 3-months)
  • $3,000 per 3-month for random shortcode
  • $4,500 per 3-months for vanity shortcode
And a usage fee
  • $0.01 per SMS to send
  • $0.005 per SMS to receive
Twilio provides a nice hosted solution for high-volume SMS using shortcodes. Twilio handles the backend step of getting your shortcode registered and getting approvals from carriers for you to send/receive bulk SMS.

Get Shortcode On Your Own
Finally, if you plan to get a shortcode on your own, you’ll work with CSCA the registrar for common shortcodes (CSC).

  1. Check CSC whois, the shortcode directory, to see if your desired shortcode is available.
    The shortcode whois directory may not show all the shortcodes in use.
  2. Register your shortcode
    Lease terms of 3-month, 6-month and 1-year are available with an auto-renewal option.
    The shortcode pricing – vanity shortcode for $1000/mo and random shortcode for $500/mo
  3. Complete your SMS campaign application
  4. CSCA forwards your campaign application to carriers and CTIA monitoring agent, each of who have to approve the application. The typical approval time is 8 weeks.
Once your SMS campaign application is approved, you can start running it. For support, you can email individual carriers for shortcode.

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