Your Guide to Commercial A2P 10DLC Text Messaging

December 27, 2019

Your Guide to Application to Person (A2P) 10 Digit Long Codes (10DLC)

We've written a full and comprehensive guide to A2P 10DLC. Included is information regarding short codes, long codes, text enabled toll-free numbers, and the current and future state of text messaging. Read on for more information.

Short Links:

  1. What is A2P 10DLC?
  2. What Are Text Enabled Toll-Free Numbers TETF?
  3. A2P Text Messaging vs. P2P Text Messaging
  4. 5-6 Digit Short Codes vs 10-Digit Long Codes (10DLC)
  5. What are Short Codes? Shared vs. Dedicated
  6. Advantages and Disadvantages of Short Codes and Long Codes
  7. 10 DLC Features: Everything You Can Do with 10-Digit Long Codes
  8. A2P 10DLC vs. Short Codes vs. TETF Numbers
  9. A2P 10DLC Timeline and Future

What is A2P 10DLC?

A2P 10DLC allows businesses to send bulk text messages to their customers from an app using local 10-digit phone numbers. A2P means sending texts from an application to a person. 10 DLC stands for “10-digit long code.” It’s the type of local phone number “(123) 456-7890” you already use to text your family and friends.

Until only recently local phone numbers were only intended for person-to-person (P2P) text messaging and voice calls. You couldn’t send high volumes of text messages and the security standards were low. 10DLC gives businesses and organizations the power of two-way communication and the flexibility to send more secure and reputable bulk text messages from a local number.

Before 10DLC, short codes and toll-free lines were the only way to send high-volumes of text messages. Many businesses still use 5 and 6-digit short codes to text their customers. However, those numbers aren’t personalized with local area codes and they don’t support voice calls.

Since the launch of A2P 10 DLC in 2019, carriers like Verizon are stepping up their efforts. They’re removing sanctions and lifting the firewalls that prevent a business from taking advantage of high-volume, personalized text messaging. 10DLC numbers should soon enable businesses to send around 100,000 text messages per month at a send rate between 5 and 15 text messages per second.

What Are Text Enabled Toll-Free Numbers (TETF)?

Think of text-enabled toll-free numbers (TETF) as a slightly more primitive yet effective form of local 10DLC. These are existing toll-free 1-800 numbers that allow for both phone calls and customer text messages. Many companies use these numbers to provide customer support, appointment reminders, order tracking, reservations and sending marketing and sales promotions.

TETF numbers allow businesses to send higher volumes of secured text messages to customers. As a business, you can send messages at a rate of about 3 per second. Expect roughly a few thousand texts per day. Compared to 10 DLC, TEFT numbers are another, less personalized business text messaging option. To-date, TEFT number services and providers have bridged the gap between higher cost, less personalized short codes, and local A2P 10DLC.

A2P Text Messaging vs. P2P Text Messaging

The difference between A2P and P2P text messaging is who or what is doing the texting. An A2P text message is a message from an application to a person’s phone. A P2P text is one sent from one person’s phone to another. Volume-wise, P2P messages have always been limited to 1 per second.

In the past, P2P was considered more personal than A2P, but this is rapidly changing. The two-way (back and forth) experience that customers are used to with friends and family is coming to businesses and at a higher volume.

Anonymous conversations are going away as businesses take a more conversational approach to texting with their customers. Customer conversations may be facilitated through the use of an application like SnapDesk, but the content of the messages feels P2P and human.

A2P text messaging will make the exchange of high-volume marketing messages, appointment reminders, notifications, and one-time passwords (OTPs) or PIN codes feel just as human as P2P messaging.

5-6 Digit Short Codes vs 10-Digit Long Codes (10DLC)

Before application to person 10DLC, the only way to send a text message from an application was through a platform that supported dedicated short codes. These systems could send out a lot of text messages, but they didn’t support voice calling or local area codes and they were expensive.

What are Short Codes?

A shortcode is a 5 or 6-digit phone number like “222333” used for bulk text message sends. For customers, texting with these numbers typically starts with an opt-in message. Once a user opts-in they can text simple one-word replies to a business for more information.

Short-codes began as more of a mass marketing tool. They were first popularized by American Idol in 2003 with their “text-to-vote” campaign. Since then, businesses have used them for all kinds of “text-to” campaigns and text blasts.

Shared vs. Dedicated Short Codes

Authorizing and enabling a shortcode has traditionally been expensive. As a result, businesses started leasing shared short codes, like 111222 to keep costs low. Shared short codes normally require a one-time setup fee, but there’s no overhead. You only pay for the messages you send while incoming SMS messages are free.

A dedicated shortcode is a number that only your business may use. These are expensive and they take time to acquire. A dedicated shortcode may be randomly generated or your business can select a custom “vanity” shortcode. Vanity short codes may look like “287437” - spelling out “BURGER”.

Advantages of 5-6 Digit Short Codes:

  • Short codes have high through-put. Short codes were designed for mass text message sends to thousands of people at one time. They’re great when it comes to volume.
  • Users are more likely to remember a shortcode. Short codes are inherently short. This makes it easy for customers to remember.

Disadvantages of 5-6 Digit Short Codes:

  • Short codes create an impersonal user experience. Receiving a text from a 5 or 6-digit number feels impersonal. There’s no area code to let users know this is a local number.
  • Keywords limit the number of possible responses. Shared short codes aren’t conversational because they limit the number of keyword responses customers can use. Additionally, if another business has already claimed a keyword, you may not be able to use the same one.
  • The user experience with short codes isn’t conversational or personalized. Business text messaging is trending toward more personalized communication. Customers prefer personalization and short codes don’t make this possible.

Advantages of 10 Digit Long Codes:

  • Long codes make for consistent communication channels. Long codes allow your company to use the same number to send SMS text messages, make voice calls and even send faxes. You can even text-enable an existing landline or VoIP line.
  • Long codes are great for 1-on-1 customer communications. Texting customers using a 10-digit long code make your customers feel like they’re texting with friends and family. It’s the same experience, just translated for business purposes.
  • Personalized customer service experiences make more sense with long codes. A message that comes from a standard, 10-digit number feels like it’s coming from a person, not a bot. That makes long codes perfect for providing a personalized customer service experience.
  • Long codes improve text message open rates. Everyone opens text messages and open rates among customers are now well documented. Various sources suggest that customer text message open rates are as high as 98%.

Past Disadvantages of Long Codes:

  • Reduced through-put didn’t allow for bulk message sends. Before A2P 10DLC the through-put (how many text messages you could send per second) was limited to one message per second. This will change as more carriers begin rolling out more advanced 10DLC products for business use.
  • Long codes were originally limited to SMS. Until recently, long codes were limited to SMS messages. You couldn’t send MMS picture messages.
  • It used to take up to a few weeks to provision a long code. Carriers and providers haven’t always had access to 10-digit long codes for commercial use. It used to take a long time to provide a text-enabled number for a business.

10 DLC Features: Everything You Can Do with 10-Digit Long Codes

Higher Text Message Through-Put

Short codes and text-enabled toll-free numbers used to be the only way for businesses to send high volumes of text messages. Local 10DLC changes all of that. It makes it possible to send around 100,000 text messages per month at a rate of 5 and 15 text messages per second.

Two-way, Conversational Text Messaging

Customers prefer one-on-one two-way conversations when talking with businesses. Emails don’t get opened and no one talks on the phone unless it’s urgent. A2P 10DLC makes it possible for you and your employees to offer the same level of personalization and conversation to all customers at scale.

Text Enable Existing Land Lines and Text to Voice Integrations

Because 10DLC uses the same number convention as local phone numbers, you’ll be able to text enable an existing landline. For more advanced VOIP users, you’ll even be able to use the same number and translate it from text to voice.

Voice Enablement

Not only can you text customers at scale, but you can also call them too. 10 DLC numbers come voice-enabled. With 10 DLC you can consolidate and centralize your customer communications channels with one line.

Lower Text Messaging Costs

Compared to dedicated short codes, the cost for a business to use A2P 10DLC will be lower. We’re talking a few hundred dollars per month. Compare this to a few thousand dollars per month for a dedicated shortcode.

Bulk MMS Sends

Short codes used to be the only way to send bulk MMS. 10DLC changes that, letting you enhance your messages with coupons, product images, and other rich media. Eventually, RCS (Rich Communication Services) will replace MMS with even richer features and functionality that couples with 10DLC.

A2P 10DLC vs. Short Codes vs. TETF Numbers

Cost Per Second Message Send Local Area Code Conversational Responses Voice Enabled A2P Capable
Shared Short Code $$$ 40-100 No No No No
Dedicated Short Code $$$$$ 40-100 No No No Yes
Text Enabled Toll-Free Number $ 1-5 No Yes Yes Yes
P2P 10DLC $ 1 Yes Yes Yes No
A2P 10DLC $$ 5-15 Yes Yes Yes Yes

A2P 10DLC Timeline

When text messaging first launched, it was hindered by carrier adoption and standardization. You could only send texts to people who were on the same network. This problem also plagues A2P 10DLC text messaging.

For A2P 10DLC to reach its full potential, each carrier will need its own 10DLC product. Verizon was the first to launch a 10DLC product in late 2019. Since then, other carriers have announced they would follow in 2020.

January 2017 - The CTIA updates Application to Person A2P standards in preparation for the use of 10 DLC (10-digit long codes) as bulk text messaging phone numbers.

December 2018 - FCC classifies texting as an information service, not a telecom service.

August 2019 - Verizon becomes the first Tier 1 carrier to roll out a commercial 10DLC product.

July 2019 - CTIA releases A2P 10DLC commercial best practices guidelines.

Q1 2020 - AT&T, Sprint, & T-Mobile set to release their own commercial 10DLC products.

Commercial A2P 10DLC and RCS - The Future

After nearly 30 years of text messaging and 20 years of short codes, two technologies are now set to alter business text messaging forever. A2P 10DLC and RCS (Rich Communication Services) will usher in a new era of business communication.

Up to now, over the top messaging applications (OTT) like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Slack have dominated B2C and intra-team business text communications. The reason: text messaging as a technology hasn’t yet progressed to offer everyone the same rich features inherent to services like Apple’s iMessage.

Read receipts, typing indicators and advanced group text features are just the beginning. Since Google acquired a company called Jibe Mobile in 2015 they’ve rallied the big four carriers and positioned RCS as the new messaging standard across all carriers and mobile devices. Google just recently rolled out the technology to all Android users and its already gained traction.

As 10DLC and RCS continue to roll out in 2020, businesses will begin to realize new, personalized, conversational ways to market, sell and service their customers.