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Texting 101

An overview of 10DLC numbers and how they compare to toll-free

Alia Paavola
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Text messaging has become a communication game-changer for businesses. But, as this messaging channel grows in popularity, so do user protections. One of the positive protections in business texting was the introduction of the 10DLC.

Though this commercial number type didn’t always exist, experts predict it will become the norm for business text messaging. So what exactly is 10DLC, how does it compare to the other number types, how can businesses use it, and what are its pros and cons?

What is 10DLC?

10DLC stands for a 10-digit long code. It’s a particular phone number used by businesses to send bulk SMS or MMS. 10DLC is governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). This number type requires businesses to follow specific guidelines and comply with regulations such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in the United States. Once approved, 10DLC numbers can be used for application-to-person messaging (A2P). 

Businesses can use 10DLC for various messaging use cases, including customer communications, marketing campaigns, transactional messaging, appointment reminders, notifications, etc. More importantly, 10DLC allows for two-way messaging, enabling businesses to engage in interactive conversations with their customers, clients, and prospects.

10DLC vs. shortcode

Dedicated shortcodes are five or six-digit numbers used for bulk one-way text messaging. These shortcodes don’t support two-way messaging or voice calls. They’re easy to remember and can become recognizable to your brand. Shortcode messaging has a high throughput once a brand’s shortcode is approved.

Availability and cost: Shortcodes are typically more expensive and harder to obtain than 10DLC numbers. The approval process for shortcodes is extensive, and leasing or purchasing a dedicated shortcode can be pricy — it’s common to cost up to $1,000 a month.

Throughput and scalability. Both 10DLC numbers and shortcodes support bulk messaging with high throughput. However, shortcodes are considered to have the highest message throughput of all number types.  

Regulation and compliance: Besides having oversight from the FCC, mobile carriers, and CTIA, shortcodes are also regulated by the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA).

Use cases and applications: Shortcodes are often used for specific one-way SMS use cases such as 2FA, large marketing campaigns, and notifications. 10DLC numbers are more versatile and can be used for a broader range of messaging applications because, unlike shortcodes, they support both two-way messaging and a high message throughput.

International considerations: Currently, shortcodes purchased in the U.S. will not work internationally. This means you can’t send messages to international numbers. On the other hand, 10DLC numbers can better support international texting,

10DLC vs. toll-free number

Toll-free numbers, initially designed for voice calls, can also be used for text messaging. 10DLC and toll-free numbers have similar use cases and functions. The key differences between 10DLC and toll-free numbers are registration cost, international use, and whether or not you want a local area code. 

Availability and cost: Toll-free numbers are the least expensive option for SMS as they don't require a registration fee, a $15 monthly Campaign Registry compliance fee, or a DCA vetting fee. However, the cost of sending and receiving one SMS message is the same for toll-free and 10DLC. 

Throughput and scalability. Registered toll-free and 10DLC numbers both support high-volume messaging. There’s no significant difference so long as your number is properly registered.

Regulation and compliance. 10DLC numbers must register with the Campaign Registry, which was created by mobile network operators like AT&T and Verizon. After submitting proper registration information, businesses and their 10DLC messaging use case must be vetted and approved before messaging can occur. There are registration fees and small monthly charges to stay on the Campaign Registry. Toll-free numbers must register with mobile carriers as well, but there is not yet a registration fee or monthly charge.

Use cases and applications: Toll-free numbers and 10DLC can be used for various use cases, as they support two-way messaging, voice, and high message throughput. Toll-free and 10DLC numbers are commonly used for customer support, appointment reminders, sales follow-ups, logistics, etc. However, toll-free numbers don’t support group messaging.

International considerations: Currently, toll-free numbers can’t send or receive messages to or from countries outside of the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Additionally, if you’re a Canadian business or need to message Canadian customers, you MUST use a toll-free number.

Look at some main differences between the 10DLC vs. toll-free vs. shortcode.

A chart comparison of 10DLC vs. toll-free vs. shortcode numbers

How to decide between a 10DLC, toll-free, or shortcode number

There isn't a hierarchy of number types, it just depends on what you want and need as a business. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want a local area code number? (If yes, 10DLC)
  • Do you need two-way messaging? (If yes, 10DLC or toll-free)
  • Do you want voice and SMS capabilities? (If yes, 10DLC or toll-free)
  • Do you want to run large one-way text marketing campaigns? (If yes, likely a shortcode) 
  • Do you care most about costs? (If yes, toll-free or 10DLC)
  • Are you a Canadian business, or need to message Canadian customers? (If yes, toll-free or Canadian shortcode)
  • Do you want to text internationally? (Just Canada: Toll-free or Canadian shortcode; Countries outside of Canada: 10DLC; Canada + other countries: We’d suggest owning more than one type of phone number)
  • Do you have a tax ID number? (If no, toll-free number)
  • Do you have a working company website or just a social media page? (If no website, toll-free number)

Who should register for 10DLC?

Any business that wants to use A2P messaging must register its 10DLC number. With the new rules implemented in early 2023, companies must register before sending text messages. The approval process can take two to three weeks. 

Benefits of having 10DLC for your business

Here are some advantages to using a registered 10DLC for your business texting needs. 

  • Familiarity to recipients. Typical 10-digit phone numbers are familiar to customers as they use and see them daily. This can result in higher open rates and better engagement. Moreover, you can choose an area code or text-enable your existing voice-only number (ex. landline, VoIP) for A2P messaging. This can result in higher open rates and better engagement.
  • Improved deliverability and throughput. Registered 10DLC numbers are designed for high message throughput, resulting in fast and reliable message delivery. This helps ensure that your messages reach your intended recipients promptly.
  • Cost-effective solution. 10DLC numbers are typically more accessible and cost-effective than shortcodes, making them a budget-friendly option for SMS and MMS messaging campaigns.
  • Leverage existing voice numbers. You can often text-enable your existing voice-only number like a landline, VoIP, or toll-free number for A2P messaging. This is helpful if you have a business number customers already know.
  • Scalable solution. 10DLC numbers offer scalability for businesses of all sizes, from small to large enterprises, allowing messaging campaigns to be tailored to specific business needs and goals.
  • International messaging. 10DLC long-code numbers can support some international messaging needs. Texts from 10DLCs can be sent to most international numbers.

Limitations of 10DLC

Here are some drawbacks of using a 10DLC for your business. 

  • Delays in verification and activation. Regulators implemented new vetting requirements for 10DLCs. To use a 10DLC, businesses must register and get approval. No messaging can be done on the 10DLC number until it’s approved. The process can take two to three weeks.

  • Carrier message filtering and blocking. Many mobile carriers implemented spam filtering to protect their customers. As a result, they can filter or block messages they deem objectionable. When carriers block a message, they don’t provide additional information about why it was flagged.

10DLC use cases

Businesses can use a registered 10DLC number in many ways. Here are a few use cases to consider.

  • Order updates. Share updates with customers about their purchases. This can include order confirmations, expected delivery timelines, and more.

  • Reminder texts. Send customers reminders about upcoming appointments, unpaid bills, hotel stays, etc.

  • Promotional messages. Send SMS marketing messages to customers or leads. This could include sharing exclusive discounts, product launch alerts, or abandoned cart reminders.

  • Real-time alerts. Send your contacts need-to-know information like emergency alerts, last-minute service cancelations, or flight delays.

  • Customer support. Use a 10DLC to give your customer support desk a boost. Text back and forth with customers to resolve issues and answer questions quickly.

  • Request feedback. Send a survey to customers via SMS or just ask about a recent experience. 10DLCs support two-way conversations, which makes getting actionable feedback easy.

  • Internal communication. Use 10DLC messaging to communicate with employees in the field or send memos.

  • Sales follow-up. Use your local 10DLC to follow up with leads after they request more information or use it to share a requested quote.

Discover 100 customizable text message templates for business for additional use cases.

How to register your 10DLC

Before you can send any type of message, you must register your 10DLC with The Campaign Registry. The registry, created by mobile carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, serves as a central database. The registry keeps track of the businesses using 10DLCs and their use cases.

To register, you must provide details about your brand and campaign. Registering your brand means sharing information about the company, like size, address, and tax ID number. Campaign registration requires brands to submit information about their use case, including how they will use the 10DLC, example messages, and how they’ll collect opt-ins from customers. 

Once you provide this information, Textline submits it for approval. This approval process is called vetting. It simply means the registry is working to verify your submitted information.

Get 10DLC registration right with Textline

A2P text messaging opens up an effective communication channel with your customers. Let Textline help you navigate the increasingly complex registration ecosystem for 10DLCs. We have the expertise and industry connections to quickly get your numbers registered and approved.

Choose Textline to help you pick the right number type and get set up correctly the first time. Get started on the right foot today with a free 14-day trial.

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