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US Short Codes vs Long Numbers vs Toll Free Numbers

girl holding phone and smiling with green background

When deciding whether you need a Short Code, Long Number or a Toll-Free Number to communicate with your customer base in the US, there are a few key things to remember:

  • Short Codes can be used for any type of A2P messaging including Marketing.
  • Toll-Free Numbers are only available in the USA and Canada. They are permitted for A2P messaging, excluding Marketing.
  • Long Numbers are permitted for P2P messaging only. Therefore, you cannot use them for marketing / A2P messaging. If Operators spot patterns that look like A2P traffic on a Long Number, you could be shut down without warning, so take care to pick the right number for your needs!
Short code, virtual long number and toll-free number example

Considering the following questions will also help you pick the right number for your specific requirements:

What is your messaging application?

If customer trust is important i.e. if you’re sending from a bank or a healthcare provider, and customers need to feel comfortable exchanging information with you, then Short Codes are the best route to take, thanks to the sturdy approval procedures they are subject to. If time to market is important then you can start sending traffic within days with a Toll-Free Number, so long as it’s not Marketing traffic. If you are planning to set up an SMS based customer support service, something where questions are answered on the fly via P2P, then a Long Number is the best way to go.

How many messages will you be sending?

When it comes to sending hundreds of messages per seconds (mps) you can use either a Short Code or Toll-Free Number. The latter allows up to 100 mps while you can reach 500 mps on a Short Code.

How quickly do you want to start sending?

Long Numbers and Toll-Free Numbers literally take minutes to set up. You can in theory, be up and running and sending messages later the same day if you need to. So, if it’s speed to market you’re after, then look at Long Numbers or Toll-Free Numbers.

What are you hoping to achieve with your messaging?

If you are hoping to gain brand recognition, and are expecting high volumes of customer interactions as a result of your messages, then Short Codes are the route to take. Short and snappy, they’re easy to remember and generate high levels of engagement.

Here’s a handy table, cross referencing all the vital statistics to help find the right number for you:

  Long Number Toll Free Number Short Code
Format Standard 10-digit number Standard 1-800 number 5-6 digit number
Throughput 1-2 message per second 10-100 messages per second 10-500 messages per second
Other Limitations 1:3 message ratio    
Delivery Quality Low High< High
Delivery Receipt No Yes Yes
Customer Trust Low Medium High
Fixed Cost Very Low Low High
Setup Time Minutes Minutes Weeks
Pre-Approval Requirements No No Yes
Other Comments Not approved for A2P use Can have same number for SMS and voice, with separate providers if needed Easier to remember

Need a bit more information to help you make a decision? Take a look at our Short Codes, and Long Numbers product pages for more details, or get in touch to discuss further.

First published by CLX Communications

US Short Codes vs Long Numbers vs Toll Free Numbers – Which One Is Right For You?