Published on 10 February, 21

4 min read

On SMS Compliance

As all experts in the broader telecom world know, telecommunication providers – voice, text, resell, etc. – are always subject to the changing guidelines and protocols of the carriers. SMS marketing is no different. 

You may or may not have heard, but the SMS marketing world is undergoing a change in how texts are delivered. Our guess is if you have heard, you are likely only hearing an incomplete story.

Voyage has spent countless hours scrubbing through CTIA and TCPA protocols and promulgations and talking to CPaaS experts, carrier conduits and aggregators, and TCPA lawyers. Compliance and deliverability are the absolute highest priority for Voyage, and we want to ensure brands – whether Voyage clients or not – are in the best position to (1) stay fully compliant; (2) ensure deliverability of their text messages; and (3) maximize ROAS.

What’s Actually Happening?

Gone are the days of the almighty shared short code.

All SMS platforms loved utilizing shared short codes. Why? Because shared short codes have historically provided the highest level of throughput (100+ msgs/second) at the best deliverability rate (near 100%) at the lowest marginal economic cost for brands ($0). 

Carriers are beginning to grandfather out shared short codes with a requirement for SMS platforms to submit migration plans by March 1, 2021. The reasoning behind this is twofold:

1. Carriers want to more readily be able to manage communication sent for Application-to-Person (A2P) traffic to monitor for terms of use violations (e.g. messaging without explicit opt-in protocols)

2. There has been an influx of non-compliant SMS providers in the market, putting brands at risk of a significant per-message fine. A great example of a non-compliant message is sending an abandoned checkout message to a consumer who has not explicitly opted in previously (which we help protect you from!)

Any text messages sent from a business that are informational or promotional in nature are automatically rendered “A2P” by the carriers. So yes, the above applies to you if you are a brand.

So, with shared short codes going away, how will brands be able to send text messages to their consumers who love receiving these timely and personalized alerts?

New Number Formats

With the phase out of shared short codes, there are several number infrastructure solutions for brands to be aware of. Voyage has noted which numbers are and are not sanctioned by the carriers for A2P traffic. Again, as a business sending marketing messages, brands are automatically defined as A2P.

  • Dedicated Short Code (SANCTIONED for A2P) – Brands can utilize a dedicated short code, which costs $500 per month at an absolute minimum (most aggregators add a $500 short-code monitoring fee on top of this to ensure ongoing compliance). This looks, acts, and behaves in the exact same manner as a shared short code, except no other brand will co-occupy said short code.
  • Toll-Free and High Throughput Toll-Free (SANCTIONED for A2P): The next best alternative to a dedicated short code. Toll-free numbers (1-800) maintain similarly high deliverability rates. Throughput can be extended to match short codes, but at a price that is pro-ratably set based on throughput increases. The only real difference between high-throughput toll-free numbers and short codes is the number format. Toll-free numbers will be supported for free by Voyage.
  • 10 Digit Long Code, or 10DLC (SANCTIONED for A2P, but not operational): You have likely or will likely hear a lot about “10DLC”. However, this has yet to be rolled out by all of the carriers. Only Verizon has rolled it out currently. AT&T is rolling it out in March 2021, with TMO/Sprint shortly behind. However, there are major issues that the carriers need to work through before 10DLC can become a good solution for brands. For instance, carriers necessitate that all campaigns must be pre-approved by them prior to sending within the 10DLC infrastructure. As you can imagine, this is not ideal for instantaneous automated messages, such as abandoned checkout drips! For these reasons, Voyage strongly recommends against utilizing 10DLC at this time. It is Voyage’s hope that within the next 12 months, these 10DLC issues will be worked out, and that this number infrastructure can effectively replace shared short codes as the primary economical format for message delivery. 
  • 10 Digit Local (NOT SANCTIONED for A2P): 10 digit local looks and feels like 10DLC (and looks like a normal number!). However, the carriers have not sanctioned this for A2P traffic, reserving it for only P2P traffic (Person-to-Person). As such, the carriers have been filtering messages over 10 digit local, resulting in poor deliverability. This filtering will significantly increase starting on March 1, 2021. Because of this, for the time being, Voyage will not be supporting 10 digit local. This decision ensures that the messages you pay for actually reach your consumers.

Bonus Material: make sure your SMS marketing provider is not spreading your A2P text messages over hundreds of 10 digit local numbers. This process – colloquially referred to as “snow shoeing” – is strictly prohibited by the carriers. If caught, the carriers reserve the right to suspend brands’ A2P text messaging capabilities.


If you want to utilize SMS marketing – and we absolutely think you should! – ensure your provider is up to speed, compliant, and communicative with you about what is happening.

Voyage takes compliance and deliverability quite seriously. Contact us to learn more!

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