Send text messages using short vs long codes

Send text messages using short vs long codes

Do you ever wonder how a brand’s name pops up on a text once you’ve opted-in to their SMS service even if you haven’t received a text from them before?

When it comes to sending bulk SMS online, users are automatically assigned a Virtual Number that the text message comes from. Through a robust and secure gateway, numbers can be personalised into a dedicated number, shortcode or Sender ID.

Some businesses prefer a branded Sender ID instead of using the ten-digit virtual number that is automatically assigned to an account so recipients know who is messaging them. This is usually used for marketing and security purposes, such as SMS marketing campaigns or 2FA / 2SV (Two-Factor Authentication / Two-Step Verification) via SMS OTP (One-Time Passwords).

Dedicated numbers are an essential component for features like 2 Way SMS. It is a private number used only by the account holder and so it can receive and reply to texts via that specific virtual number. Shortcode and long code can both be used as a dedicated number that a recipient can receive SMS from.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to SMS Marketing

What is long code?

Depending on the region, long code can also be known as Response Numbers, Virtual Numbers or Inbound Numbers. This is a standard mobile phone number designated for a user or business to send online text messages from.

The length of the phone number used to send standard text messages usually comprises of ten digits. For example, mobile numbers in Australia begin with ‘04’ and contains ten digits, as would the long code used by online SMS software to send texts within Australia.


  • Cost-effective: users are charged standard SMS prices
  • Dedicated Number: there is the option to allocate a private phone number for your brands
  • International access: if the correct country code is entered with the long code, the number can be accessed from many different locations across the globe
  • 2 way SMS: long code supports replies from recipients
  • More choice: there is the option to choose a sequence of memorable numbers within the long code depending on availability and cost
  • Contact database: it’s easy to gather client information through triggers and keywords, including an opt-out option
  • Content: the opportunity to send targeted and relevant messages, such as reminders and alerts


  • Not memorable: the longer the number, the less likely recipients will remember it
  • Spam: long code is more likely to be tagged as spam if the number is sending high volume messages, this might be because it may be conceived as an unrecognised number or include marketing content

What is short code?

Not surprisingly, a shortcode is a compact number that is shorter than most standard phone numbers and is used to send bulk text messages online. Differing from country to country, shortcodes can vary between five and eight digits in length and are specific to the allocated country. Depending on your SMS needs, you can opt for a shared number or a dedicated service.

When businesses use shortcode for bulk texting they also brand their messages with a number that is easily remembered by recipients. Brands can provide SMS marketing and promotions, 2FA and OTP, mobile coupons and discount codes, alert notifications including weather and traffic updates, sweepstakes, contests and mobile voting all using shortcode.


  • Premium service: high tier service means fast, direct delivery to intended recipients
  • Dedicated Number: there is the option to allocate a private phone number for your brand
  • Memorable: a shorter number makes it easier for recipients to remember and text in
  • Business name: a personalised contact display name ensures your recipients know where the message is coming from immediately and identifies who is messaging
  • 2 way SMS: shortcode supports replies, triggers and keywords from recipients
  • High volume: a high volume of messages is less likely to be flagged as spam even if it contains marketing content as the account is registered with shortcode


  • Country-specific: as each country has specific regulations around shortcode, it does not permit sending bulk online texts internationally
  • Opt-in: anyone receiving shortcode messages must opt-in directly to receive SMS
  • Cost: as shortcode is a premium service, it costs more than virtual numbers

What is a Dedicated Number?

It’s like having your own personalised code that customers and staff can communicate with you by, that no one else can send from — a private number that can send and receive SMS and MMS only to one account. This can be shortcode, long code or a Sender ID dedicated to a specific account.

Having a dedicated number is more accessible when responding to SMS replies via 2-way SMS and Email to SMS, promoting and marketing your brand and is recognisable by intended recipients, be it customers, clients or employees.

Related: How a Dedicated or Virtual Number can help you build your brand

Two way SMS

2-way texting is supported by an essential component, a unique dedicated number. The ability to communicate directly with customers and employees, and for them to communicate with you, is important when growing and building professional relationships.

Related: Two-way SMS: How it can benefit your business

Email to SMS

Using a dedicated number to send bulk SMS online is easy and efficient. Email to SMS can be utilised by using your email portal of choice, typing your message and sending to designated contacts. It works by accessing the designated contacts’ mobile number through an email address, for example,

All in one location

One specific number that only your account has access to via a robust SMS platform makes it practical to organise text messages, contacts and reports to ensure you continue to enhance your SMS marketing campaigns.

Brand your messages

Sender ID

In the place of a contact number, a word can be sent and received by the recipient instead. Restricted by ten characters, businesses have the ability to send SMS with their brand name as the Sender ID.

For example, Australia Post can send messages to recipients and the contact appears as ‘AusPost’ automatically with shortcode.

Related: Sender IDs [Explained]

Vanity Number

Whether it be shortcode or long code, having an easy-to-remember contact number is vital for quick and efficient text messaging. A vanity number is a number that spells out a word or name using a numeric keypad.

For example, 132227 is the number for a cab company and spells out 13CABS making it easy to remember for those who need to access a cab service.

But where?

Every country has different short code and long code regulations and availability. Particularly shortcodes, are restricted to the country and does not support international SMS.

Long codes and shortcode tend to differ in price and reach — long code can be used internationally and are toll-free, whereas shortcode includes paying a premium as they offer fewer options but is limited to national use.

In the U.S.

There are strict regulations in place around how companies interact with end-users via SMS, especially regarding opt-in and opt-out selections, text message structure for advertisements and what kind of numbers are used for P2P and A2P. In the U.S., both long code and shortcode are available, however, shortcode is preferable and more popular.

Long code is reserved for P2P (person to person) communication including customer service application and chat applications. This is to reduce spam to recipients, and, if not followed, can result in a US$1500 fine per text. It is usually toll-free if it’s not a dedicated number or vanity number, and tied to an area code.

Whereas, shortcode is five to six digits long and is used for A2P (application to person) communication. It comes at a premium depending on the type of number (for example, vanity number or custom Sender ID) and is not tied to an area code. Particularly more high volume text messaging like alerts and notifications, 2SV via OTP, promotional texts and SMS marketing.

In Australia

Although SMS regulation and restrictions are still prevalent in Australia, distinctions between long code and shortcode not limited like in the U.S. For example, businesses can use both long code and shortcode for a range of purposes, not limited to using shortcode for A2P or long code for P2P.

Long code in Australia is ten digits long and start with ‘04’ — not restricted to area codes, and shortcode can range between six and eight digits long and can be used nationally.

Long codes are usually automatically assigned to an account unless the user opts for a dedicated number or a vanity number, and shortcode costs the sender a premium.