Short code

Short code

Short codes (also known as short numbers) are special telephone numbers, significantly shorter than full telephone numbers, that can be used to address SMS and MMS messages from certain service provider's mobile phones or fixed phones. There are two types of short codes: dialing and messaging.

Short codes are designed to be easier to read and remember than normal telephone numbers. Like telephone numbers, short codes are unique to each operator at the technological level. Even so, providers generally have agreements to avoid overlaps. In some countries, such as the United States, some classes of numbers are inter-operator (U.S. inter-operator numbers are called common short codes).[1]

Short codes are widely used for value-added services such as television program voting, ordering ringtones, charity donations and mobile services. Messages sent to short code can be billed at a higher rate than a standard SMS and may even subscribe a customer to a recurring monthly service that will be added to their mobile phone bill until they text, for example, the word "STOP" to terminate the service.



Normal telephone numbers (following the E.164 standard) may be of any length, and so when dialed from landline telephones, the network must apply heuristics to determine when dialing is complete — in the US, for example, dialed numbers are generally seven or ten digits long, with an optional prefix of "1" (the country code for the US and Canada). On mobile phones, numbers are terminated with the "Send" or "Call" key and sent all at once over the network, so the network knows the end of the dialed number, and thus one can use short numbers without clashing with longer numbers.

For instance, on a land-line phone, one could not use the short code 12345, since then one could not dial the phone number 1-234-555-4626 (or any other number that shared the prefix 12345), but on a mobile phone there is no such ambiguity.

Short codes and service identifiers (prefix)

Short codes are often associated with automated services. An automated program can handle the response and typically requires the sender to start the message with a command word or prefix. The service then responds to the command appropriately.

In ads or in other printed material where a provider has to inform about both the prefix and the short code number, the advertisement will typically follow this format:

Example 1 - Long version: Text Football to 72404 for latest football news.

Example 2 - Short version: football@72404

Regional differences

European Union
Common EU-wide codes are six digit long and start with 11. Examples include: 118xxx - directory services, 116xxx - emergency helplines. This is in addition to the EU-wide emergency number 112.
Short Codes are five digits in length and start with 5, also are known as short codes for value added service.
Short codes are six or eight digits in length, starting with the prefix "19" followed by an additional four or six digits and two. Communications Alliance Ltd and WMC Global are responsible for governing premium and standard rate short codes in Australia.[2] Transactional and Subscription services require a double sms MO opt-in or Web based opt-in with an MO reply.[2]
Codes are four digits in length. You can have a look at the different categories here [1].
Canadian Common Short Codes can be five or six digits long. Common Short Codes beginning with a leading '4' are reserved for private use by wireless carriers. Four-digit Common Short Codes are not permitted due to handset incompatibilities. Short code-based messages vary between zero-rated (paid for by campaign), standard rate (user is responsible for standard carrier charges), and premium rate (varies, C$1-10). Canadian Short codes are governed by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.[3]
Codes are three and four digits in length.
Czech Republic
Messages sent to/from these short codes are known as Premium Rate SMS. Codes are seven digits in length for MO and five (not billed) or eight (billed) for MT direction, starting with nine, while two or three (depending on billing type=MO/MT) trailing digits express the price, e.g. SMS sent to 9090930 is billed for 30. Leading three digits are purpose type prefixes (908 for micropayments, 909 for adult content and 900 for everything else), digits at position four and five determines the service provider registered by a network operator. There are also other four digit shortcodes, used by a network operators for service only purposes (operator dependent)
Codes are four digits in length.
Dominican Republic
Codes are four or five digits in length.
Codes are five or more digits in length, usually five or six.
Codes are five digits in length. Starting digits define the cost of the service.
Codes are four or five digits in length.
Codes are five digits in length.
Codes are four or five digits in length.
There are many companies in the Indian market who rent keywords,on a monthly basis, whose characters, on a typical mobile phone keypad, represent short codes. Short codes are five digits in length and have to start with the digit '5'. The five digits can be extended by three digits further representing three additional characters. Texts sent to these Short Codes are commonly referred to as Premium Rate SMS Messages and cost around Rs 1 to Rs 3 per text depending on the operator as well as the service. Any length of full message can be sent, ranging from 100–500 (some providers only support).
Codes are four digits in length with Rp2000 premium price.
Republic of Ireland
Short codes are five digits in length, and start with 5. The second digit generally indicates the maximum price, with 0 = completely free, 1 = standard text rate only, 3 = 0.60, and 7 having no maximum. Codes beginning 59 are ostensibly intended for adult services, but few if any of these codes are used.[4]
In Italy short codes have no fixed length, starting from three digits up to five. They all start by the digit "4", which is designated by a local telecommunications law for "network services". Widely-known short codes are in the 48xxx range, commercial ringtones and mobile stuff download.
Korea, South
Codes are generally four to six digits in length, however short codes have no fixed length.
In Lithuania short codes also have no fixed length, starting from three digits up to five. They all start by the digit "1", which is designated by a local telecommunications law for "network services".
Codes are five digits in length, start with "2" or "3", premium pricing from RM0.30 up to 10.00. Codes are MT billed so subscription services are allowed. Upon service description approval by mobile operators, dedicated codes are generally live in 4 weeks, and shared codes after 1 week.[5]
Code are four keys digits in length.
Codes are three to four digits in length. Dialing shortcodes are generally 3 digits, and reserved for public services. SMS shortcodes are used for a range of purposes, and are four digits.
The Netherlands
Codes are four digits in length.
Codes are four to five digits in length.
Codes are four and five digits in length.
New Zealand
Codes are three and four digits in length.
Codes are four digits in length.
Commercial codes are five digit long (1xxxx) and are reachable from both mobile and fixed networks. Calls to short codes - from any type of network - are routed based on the location of the number originating the call; hence, if wishing to reach a particular geographical area, the subscriber might need to prefix the short code with an appropriate area code.
Codes are four digits in length. The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is a regulatory agency providing an environment that ensures reliable, affordable and viable infrastructure and services in information and communications technology (ICT) accessible to all.[6] Although they are ultimately responsible for the governance of premium and non-premium shortcodes in the Philippines, their regulatory guidelines are not comprehensive when applied to shortcodes, more focusing on the carriers and their technical infrastructure. You will find no information specific to running premium SMS or standard rate SMS services on NTC's website. There is relevant documentation for Bulk SMS and SPAM control via NTC's "AMENDMENT TO THE RULES AND REGULATIONS ON BROADCAST MESSAGING SERVICES",[7] however again is not directly related to premium SMS. One company that maintains a list of, and advises on the regulatory issues to consider when connecting to a short code in the Philippines is txtNation.[8]
Codes are four digits in length. The cost of the call or SMS to the short number varies from 1.2 to 300 rubles, depending on the number and the carrier.
Codes are four digits in length.
Codes are five digits in length.
South Africa
Codes are five digits in length. Short codes will start with either a "3" or "4". For example, 34001 or 42001. Each short code or short code range (a range will generally be 34000 to 34009) are assigned specific tariffs or end user prices (EUP). The tariff charges can range from R0.50 to R30.00 on mobile originated billing and from R0.50 to R50.00 using mobile terminated billing.[9][10]
Codes are four digits in length.
Codes are five digits in length.
Codes are usually four digits in length, starting with digits "19".
Codes are four digits in length.
United Kingdom
Codes are five digits in length, mostly starting with 6 or 8. Codes starting 7 are used by charities.[11] The range of codes may be expanded in time to use other leading digits such as 4. Adult related mobile services must use codes starting with 69 or 89. Mobile operators sometimes use proprietary codes (either with a different leading digit or shorter in length for their own use). SMS shortcodes are often owned by holding companies[12] who then lease them out to service providers and advertisers to promote SMS services, charitable fund-raising and marketing promotions such as news alerts, voting and quizzes. Shortcodes can also be used to deliver additional content or a mobile URL link that when prompted opens the mobile web browser linking the user to a mobile web page. Premium services use codes that can be set to deliver a charge to a participant’s mobile phone (in accordance with the service provider’s terms of service). Other codes (typically used by advertisers) can be free to receive “your standard rate applies” or free to send and receive. UK Premium rated SMS services are regulated by PhonepayPlus. All charges and associated terms linked to a premium code should be transparent to the consumer. To stop a subscription based shortcode service text the word 'STOP' to the shortcode number.
United States of America
As of May 31, 2006, the standard lengths for interoperable short codes are five and six digits.[13] Carriers use short codes with fewer digits for carrier-specific programs - e.g., "Text 611 to see how many minutes you have remaining on your plan." Codes starting with 1 are not permitted. Common short codes in the U.S. are administered by NeuStar, under a deal with Common Short Code Administration - CTIA.[14] Short codes can be leased at the rate of $1000 a month for a selected code or $500 for a random code.[14] Some carriers assign a subset of their carrier-specific codes to third parties. For example, 4 digit codes on T-Mobile USA's network are reserved for a "Beta test service" or "Free to end user" marketing campaigns.[15][16]

Alternatives to short codes for SMS reception

An alternative to inbound SMS is based on long numbers (international number format, e.g. +44 7624 805000), which can be used in place of short codes or premium-rated short messages for SMS reception in several applications, such as television voting, product promotions and campaigns. Long numbers are internationally available, as well as enabling businesses to have their own number, rather than short codes which are usually shared across a number of brands. Additionally, long numbers are non-premium inbound numbers.

Long Numbers address some of the disadvantages of short codes, specifically:

  • Long Lead Time - It takes a long time to launch a short code program. In the US, it can take 2-3 months before your campaign is live with all of the major carriers.
  • Expensive - It costs a lot to get a dedicated short code. In the US, if you get a short code, it will cost $500 or $1,000 a month just to get a number. You have to pay more to an aggregator for connectivity. And you start paying from day one, long before you go live. You can get a shared short code to lower your costs, but then you are sharing the number with lots of providers and do not have sole control over the number.
  • Limiting - Short Codes don’t support voice. Some carriers don’t support short codes. A US short code only works in the US. The carriers can reject your campaign at their discretion.
  • Restrictive - The MMA Best Practices are 165 pages.


  1. ^ Evan Neufeld, Senior Analyst, Common Short Codes: Cracking The Mobile Marketing Code, October 2007
  2. ^ a b "Australia - Premium SMS, Short Code Regulations : Support | txtNation". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  3. ^ "TXT Splash". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  4. ^ "Commission for Communications Regulation - RegTel Information". 2010-07-12. Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  5. ^ "Malaysia - Premium SMS Regulations : Support | txtNation". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  6. ^ "The National Telecommunications Commission Web Portal". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "WASPA Website". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  10. ^ "sms c.o.d.e.s". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  11. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-10-17. 
  12. ^ A Short Guide to a (UK) Short Code by "Steve", March 11th, 2009
  13. ^ Common Short Code Administration Announces Open Registration of 6-Digit Codes, Press Release, CTIA, May 31, 2006
  14. ^ a b Decoding Short Codes, by Monica Alleven, WirelessWeek, April 15, 2007
  15. ^ Free to end user (FTEU) by "Steve", Digitial Marketing Blog, July 23rd, 2007
  16. ^ Personal communication, T-Mobile Customer Support

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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