AT&T and T-Mobile will soon enact a ban on shared short codes. Fortunately, there are several methods in place to replace them.

Rytis Lauris

Rytis Lauris, CEO at Omnisend

SMS was a breakout channel in 2020, with more brands adopting and incorporating SMS marketing into their strategies than ever before. With that success has also come abuse from illegitimate senders, and mobile carriers say, “no more!”

Mobile carriers AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile U.S. Inc. announced plans to ban shared short codes for commercial A2P (application-to-person) messaging. The ban was initially scheduled to go into effect on March 1 but has been pushed back three months to June 1. For retailers, this means they’ll no longer be able to share the same short codes for promotional SMS messaging.

What are shared short codes and why are they being banned?

Short codes are five- to six-digit sending numbers that companies use to send SMS marketing messages to their customers. Because of their high throughput (sending speed) and shared cost, sharing the same short codes became an attractive option for many brands.


However, because several companies share short codes, those following consent laws faced an elevated risk of spam complaints because of other companies using the same codes. The sharing caused law-abiding brands to face lower deliverability and traffic blocking because of their less-savory cohorts’ actions.

For this reason, AT&T and T-Mobile are no longer supporting new shared short codes and will ban their future use. That should help maintain better deliverability for legitimate brands sending promotional SMS messages.

What are the alternatives?

With the ban on short codes, retailers looking to maintain their SMS marketing efforts will need to opt for a different kind of sender ID number. Fortunately, there are several methods in place to replace shared SMS short codes.

  • Dedicated toll-free numbers: Everyone knows the classic toll-free number—it’s the tried and true (and most recognizable) option for American customers. Dedicated toll-free numbers have some of the best deliverability, have a high throughput, and they are the most cost-efficient of all the alternatives to shared short codes.
  • 10dlcs: the 10-digit long code: Great for fast A2P messaging, 10DLCs are the fresh new alternative to shared short codes, as they’re supported for mass-sending and are less filtered by mobile carriers in the United States. Using a typical 10-digit local number, you can reach millions of customers with fast throughput. However, 10DLCs are brand new: AT&T only just launched 10DLC support this month, meaning there could be deliverability issues until the infrastructure is established better.
  • Dedicated short codes: For those who don’t want to use a 10DLC or a toll-free number, a dedicated short code is an attractive option. You can either get a randomly generated short code or opt for a vanity short code—although they are more expensive.

The impact on brands’ SMS marketing 

For those in the ecommerce industry, the boom SMS marketing is experiencing comes as no surprise. SMS marketing has been growing in popularity for several years. According to a recent Omnisend report analyzing over 30 million messages, ecommerce brands sent 378% more SMS campaigns in 2020 than in 2019.

Even with the increase in sends, performance did not decline as some might expect from sudden “overcrowding.” SMS’s click rate increased to 10.6% in 2020, and conversion rates more than doubled year-over-year. Because SMS is an opt-in channel, meaning marketers send them only sent to those who explicitly request them, consumers welcome them—and the numbers prove it.

Ecommerce brands should celebrate this news. The move by carriers to ban shared short codes demonstrates just how valuable a channel they feel SMS is. The marketing results seen by ecommerce brands show just how valuable consumers find SMS marketing to be. Combine these two things, and you have a win-win.

Companies should see the discontinuation of shared short codes as a blessing in disguise. Rather than sharing their ID with another brand, they can now truly build a one-to-one, branded communication with their customers. The unique number will soon hold the same power as an instantly recognizable ‘send-from name in an email inbox—meaning higher potential engagement.


Ultimately, brands can fully realize the power of a branded SMS channel by combining SMS with their email marketing strategies. So, instead of relying on email- or SMS-only messages, they can create behavior-based automation that sends the right message, via the right channel, at the right time.

The time is now for online brands to use this opportunity to their advantage and deliver a better, branded customer experience. After all, AT&T, T-Mobile, and consumers have all spoken. Will you listen?

Omnisend offers an automated platform for ecommerce email and SMS marketing.