10DLC - Your complete guide

[email protected], 10.01.2021

In previous discussions, we looked at why text messaging is the clear winner for staying connected with your customers. The facts are that 98% of text messages are opened within a few minutes and provide substantially better ROI when compared to any other marketing channel (such as email). In this discussion we will do a deep dive into 10DLC; these are programs being rolled out by the big Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to allow commercial text messaging traffic on standard local phone numbers.

What is 10DLC?

A 10DLC number is essentially a local 10-digit phone number that can support high volumes of text messages. A2P 10DLC is a system in the United States that lets businesses send Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging via standard 10-digit long-code phone numbers. Verizon was the first to implement local A2P messaging with 10DLC in 2020 and now the other carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile (now partnered with Sprint) are rolling their 10DLC programs out.

A2P versus P2P

The difference between A2P and P2P (person-to-person) messaging is that P2P is usually communication between consumers, while A2P is communication between business and consumers. The US long codes widely used by businesses in previous years were only ever designed for P2P communications. They have low volume throughput and lack security standards. Carriers have always considered them to be an unsanctioned SMS route. For this reason, they were subject to blocking and throttling.

A2P 10DLC has been specially designed for business messaging. It offers simplicity, stability, and reliability with delivery, while also offering security to businesses and their audiences. It will also support the volume of messaging throughput that almost any business might require.

Carriers have found that switching to A2P 10DLC provides better delivery quality and lower filtering risk than long-code SMS of the past, while also protecting their users from spam and unwanted messages. To put it simply, A2P 10DLC helps businesses communicate clearly to the carriers who they are and what messages they are trying to send to their “opted-in” customers.

Overall, this new A2P SMS messaging system is expected to be a big change for many different industries. As we continue to evolve and find new ways of using messaging to communicate, so do the businesses we interact with. 10DLC messaging will help facilitate this evolution in messaging and communication.

Are there benefits to 10DLC?

The most common (and least expensive) way for businesses to send SMS messages to customers is A2P. It removes the manual labor of texting and enables businesses to send text messages in bulk. But, until now, most phone numbers were not explicitly designed to send mass SMS messages, while phone numbers that are built for bulk texting are too expensive for many businesses.

Most organizations had three options to choose from:

Short codes: short codes are 5- or 6-digit numbers. Short codes can send millions of messages per day, at up to 500 messages per second. Short code numbers can be expensive to purchase and require a long, burdensome campaign approval process before they can be used.

Toll-free long codes: toll-free numbers are an inexpensive alternative to short codes. Toll-free long codes are only capable of sending a few thousand messages per day, at a rate of 3 messages per second. Toll-free long codes also appear impersonal and unfamiliar to your customers and may not create the engagement you are looking for with your campaign.

Local long codes: local long codes are standard phone numbers. They are affordable but they are designed for person-to-person texting. A local long code can only support 1 message per second and a few hundred messages per day. Using local long codes for A2P messaging is against the CTIA guidelines, as local long codes were initially designed for P2P messaging only. Using a local long code for commercial text messaging traffic presents both use constraints and regulatory conformity issues.

Long Code (10DLC)

Type of messaging One-Way, Two-Way
Throughput (MPS) Low
Per Message Cost $
Carrier Span Filtering
Supports voice callback
Digits 10
Provisioning Time Instant
Deliverability Ok-Good
Offnet number support
Supports images and videos
Full Api Support
Full Zapier Support
Full Slack Support
Best For Lower volumes, promotions, alerts, notifications, human initiated text.

Toll Free

Type of messaging One-Way, Two-Way
Throughput (MPS) Medium
Per Message Cost $$
Carrier Span Filtering
Supports voice callback
Digits 10
Provisioning Time Instant
Deliverability Good
Offnet number support
Supports images and videos
Full Api Support
Full Zapier Support
Full Slack Support
Best For Avarage Volumes, customer service, chat, some promotions,alerts,notifications marketing OTP/2FA

Toll Free

Type of messaging One-Way, Two-Way
Throughput (MPS) High
Per Message Cost $$$
Carrier Span Filtering
Supports voice callback
Digits 5-6
Provisioning Time Instant
Deliverability Best
Offnet number support
Supports images and videos
Full Api Support
Full Zapier Support
Full Slack Support
Best For Higher Volumes, Promotions, Alerts, Notifications, Marketing, OTP/2FA
Long Code (10DLC) Toll Free Short Code
Type of messaging One-Way, Two-Way One-Way, Two-Way One-Way, Two-Way
Throughput (MPS) Low Medium High
Per Message Cost $ $$ $$$
Carrier Span Filtering
Supports voice callback
Digits 10 10 5-6
Provisioning Time Instant Instant 8-12 Weeks
Deliverability Okay - Good Good Best
Offnet number support No
Supports images and videos
Full Api Support
Full Zapier Support
Full Slack Support
Best For Lower volumes, promotions, alerts, notifications, human initiated text. Avarage Volumes, customer service, chat, some promotions,alerts,notifications marketing OTP/2FA Higher Volumes, Promotions, Alerts, Notifications, Marketing, OTP/2FA

None of these present a low-cost option for sending moderate volumes of A2P SMS messages. 10DLC addresses this problem.

10DLC numbers give businesses the best of both worlds. Mass text messaging support with lower overhead costs help businesses reach their customers effectively. 10DLC numbers can support SMS message volumes that are somewhere between the limits of short codes and toll-free long codes. Currently, 10DLC messaging can send messages at a rate of 5 to 15 messages per second, and that number may increase in the future.

10DLC numbers have lower monthly costs than dedicated short codes, and cost about the same as a local long-code phone number. Businesses that cannot afford the higher cost of a short-code number have a cost-effective alternative.

Additionally, businesses will be able to convert their existing landlines to 10DLC numbers. This means businesses can continue sending messages from their existing phone number and will not have to pay for an additional one to get 10DLC capabilities.

Because 10DLC numbers are sanctioned by the term vendors, messages sent on these numbers are more likely going to reach the recipient than with regular local long codes. This creates better deliverability and throughput.

Who Should Consider Using 10DLC?

While the new A2P 10DLC has its benefits, some businesses will still be better off using a short-code number. 10DLC numbers will help businesses that fall in that middle ground between short codes and toll-free long codes in terms of message volume and budget. 10DLC presents opportunities for more businesses to reach more customers with A2P messaging.

With short codes being the only true way of sending mass text messages at a large scale, how do businesses make use of them in an affordable way? Shared short codes are standard short codes that are used by many brands. In some cases, thousands of brands will use a single number. While this has been the standard for a long time, there is an inherent problem for carriers. If someone is sending spam, or violating their guidelines, it becomes much more difficult to identify who is at fault. Then, to shut them down, they must shut the entire short code down, which stops thousands of other innocent text programs that are likely playing by the rules.

10DLC SMS aims to solve this issue by giving each business or organization their own dedicated number. At just a few dollars per month, these commercial long codes are the perfect solution to the message volume and accountability issues.

Carriers like AT&T have stated that once 10DLC SMS is working across all carrier networks, they plan to start phasing out shared short codes. There are no official timelines or specifics on this, however. It is likely that the other carriers will follow in their footsteps, but there have been no official declarations to do so. If AT&T decides to remove shared short codes, there will be a “migration period” where users of shared codes will be able to secure their own dedicated short codes or move to 10DLC numbers.

What business opportunities does this create? Businesses need to send messages at scale. Currently they have limited possibilities. Carriers are looking to make a profit. These elements create a space for a service that can make money for both carriers and businesses. Carriers make little money on existing long-code messaging. They will make much more on 10DLC SMS messaging due to the added 10DLC surcharges. Once it is widely adopted and in use, people will naturally migrate their messaging traffic to this new commercial A2P channel (even with the increase in rates). More dollars in the pockets of the carriers and more communication options for businesses means everyone will be benefiting from the new system.

What is the Timeline to move to 10DLC?

As we go through 2021, many changes will be made to the A2P SMS messaging industry in the US. Every business that relies on shared US short codes to connect with their audiences will need to understand and adapt to the new regulations. There is still some confusion around the timing of full system adoption, what processes and requirements may change, and the impact on deliverability and throughput.

Verizon was the first carrier to launch an A2P 10DLC service, back in early 2020. Now other carriers are following in their footsteps. The new changes to A2P 10DLC will launch March 1, 2021 for AT&T with T-Mobile. This launch will also bring new fees on all long-code messages, and new requirements when registering for businesses who intend to send these messages (to AT&T customers in the US). Registration must be complete by June 1, 2021 to avoid additional filtering. T-Mobile/Sprint and US Cellular are also preparing an A2P 10DLC rollout. These will include a similar registration system as AT&T, but details are still being finalized.

Only after each individual carrier has launched and finalized their 10DLC programs will businesses and organizations fully be able to take advantage of these new systems. It is important that the carriers work peacefully and in tandem to achieve full success in this new implementation. Because of this, it is important to look at each of these categories across the entire system of carriers to make an informed decision for your messaging strategy.

February 1, 2020

Verizon rolled out their 10DLC program which required a .0025 surcharge for each A2P message sent to their network.

March 1, 2021

Registration opens on March 1st. AT&T carrier fees begin applying to messages sent to numbers on AT&T's network. US Cellular is also using March 1st, 2021 as a go live date for their 10DLC fee structure.

May 1, 2021

AT&T's Campaign-based fee schedule goes into effect for messages to users on AT&T's network. The per-message fees associated with of unregistered SMS and MMS to AT&T increases.

June 1, 2021:

Registration deadline for AT&T. At this point, AT&T will increase filtering (blocking) of non-registered 10-digit long code traffic sent to users on their network.

We strongly recommend that businesses complete registration as soon as possible after it opens on March 1.

10DLC FAQs

What happens if I do not register?

After May 1, 2021, registered traffic to AT&T will benefit from lower fees, and the per-message carrier fees for unregistered traffic will increase slightly. After June 1, AT&T will increase message filtering on non-registered traffic, to better protect mobile subscribers from unwanted messaging.

T-Mobile (including Sprint) will require registration under this new system as well. Details are still being finalized. However, you should plan to register to take advantage of better rates and reduced filtering to these networks as well. It’s important to note that T-Mobile has announced steep fines (as much as $10,000) for sending A2P traffic to them that does not align to their specific 10DLC program.

How does Brand Registration work?

When you complete your A2P Profile (Brand Registration), The Campaign Registry will give your Brand a Trust Score of either Low, Medium, or High Trust. This rating influences the maximum message throughput that will be allocated to each of your campaigns.

Are US shared short codes being banned?

After the launch of A2P 10DLC, carriers are requiring that traffic on shared codes be migrated to dedicated 10DLCs or short codes. To carriers, shared short codes equal a high spam risk. Many businesses sharing the same short code makes them difficult to regulate and police.

T-Mobile and AT&T now prohibit shared short codes in their updated codes of conduct. There will be very few exceptions – even for same vertical shared codes. Cases will be treated on a case-by-case basis with an in-depth carrier review before approval.

Will I need a dedicated US short code?

Another option for companies will be to move to A2P 10DLC. These numbers will have lower monthly costs, be sanctioned by the carrier networks, and will be much faster to provision.

The increased message filtering should not be a problem for independent developers and small businesses sending small volumes of message traffic.

What is A2P 10DLC vetting?

All Tier-1 carriers have a vested interest in keeping their routes spam free and reducing consumer harm. Verizon accomplishes this by using spam and smashing filters. It does not use vetting scores to assign throughput, but instead allocates TPS like how it does this for short codes.

As part of the 10DLC campaign registration process, AT&T gives each campaign a “message class” (see table below). A certain amount of throughput is expected to be assigned to each class. If you need more throughput, you might be given the opportunity to go through a vetting process with a verified independent agency. A good trust score from them could lead to higher throughput.

A2P 10DLC Class A

Use Case (Risk Level) Standard
Campaign Type Declared Use Case
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0020
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class B

Use Case (Risk Level) Low Risk Provider
Campaign Type Mixed/Marketing
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0030
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class C

Use Case (Risk Level) Standard
Campaign Type Declared Use Case
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0020
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class D

Use Case (Risk Level) Medium Risk Provider
Campaign Type Mixed/Marketing
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0030
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class E

Use Case (Risk Level) Standard
Campaign Type Declared Use Case
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0020
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class F

Use Case (Risk Level) High Risk Provider
Campaign Type Mixed/Marketing
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0030
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class T

Use Case (Risk Level) Basic/Unregistered(Highest risk provider)
Campaign Type low volume mixed
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0040
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0050

A2P 10DLC Class G

Use Case (Risk Level) Group messaging (POOLS) (INCL Bridge Services or Anonymization)
Campaign Type Special
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0020
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class P

Use Case (Risk Level) Charity
Campaign Type Special
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0000
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0000

A2P 10DLC Class S

Use Case (Risk Level) Social Engagement
Campaign Type Special
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) Restricted
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) Restricted

A2P 10DLC Class Q

Use Case (Risk Level) Political Messaging
Campaign Type Special
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0020
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class X

Use Case (Risk Level) Emergency Services / Public Safety
Campaign Type Special
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0000
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0000

A2P 10DLC Class Z

Use Case (Risk Level) Large CSP FPE Trial Offers with strict controls
Campaign Type Special
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) $0.0020
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) $0.0035

A2P 10DLC Class Y

Use Case (Risk Level) (Trusted) Carrier Exemptions
Campaign Type Special (Trusted)
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) TBD
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) TBD

A2P 10DLC Class W

Use Case (Risk Level) (Less Trusted) Carrier Exemptions
Campaign Type Special
SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) TBD
MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY) TBD
A2P 10DLC Class Use Case (Risk Level) Campaign Type SMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MT ONLY) MMS 10DLC PASS THROUGH FEE PER CLASS (MTT ONLY)
A Standard Declared Use Case $0.0020 $0.0035
B Low Risk Provider Mixed/Marketing $0.0030 $0.0035
C Standard Declared Use Case $0.0020 $0.0035
D Medium Risk Provider Mixed/Marketing $0.0030 $0.0035
E Standard Declared Use Case $0.0020 $0.0035
F High Risk Provider Mixed/Marketing $0.0030 $0.0035
T Basic/Unregistered(Highest risk provider) low volume mixed $0.0040 $0.0050
G Group messaging (POOLS) (INCL Bridge Services or Anonymization) Special $0.0020 $0.0035
P Charity Special $0.0000 $0.0000
S Social Engagement Special Restricted Restricted
Q Political Messaging Special $0.0020 $0.0035
X Emergency Services / Public Safety Special $0.0000 $0.0000
Z Large CSP FPE Trial Offers with strict controls Special $0.0020 $0.0035
Y (Trusted) Carrier Exemptions Special (Trusted) TBD TBD
W (Less Trusted) Carrier Exemptions Special TBD TBD

T-Mobile (Sprint) allocates TPS at the brand level – with a daily limit. If you have more than one campaign running, your daily quota is split across those campaigns. There are two options when it comes to receiving your daily messaging quota:

  • Default vetting in two tiers. The high-performance tier is for public companies and requires a vetting score of 75 or higher. This will earn you a daily quota of 200,000 messages. The low-performance tier (with a vetting score of 0–24) will earn a daily quota of 2,000 messages.
  • Any brand that does not fit one of the above tiers, or that wants to improve their vetting score, will need to be third-party vetted.

How is 10DLC trustworthiness measured?

An example of a campaign likely to be considered low-risk would be one that uses A2P 10DLC to send (and receive) SMS-based two-factor authorization (2FA). Consumers have asked for this traffic, they respond to it, and it is safe and necessary.

On the opposite end of the spectrum would fall promotional marketing campaigns by third-party affiliates. There is potential for these campaigns to be sent to consumers who may not have been opted into the campaign or asked for this traffic.

The score you receive could determine the volume and throughput of messages each carrier allows you to send through their respective networks.

What happens to text-enabled Toll-Free numbers?

The other messaging option available for businesses is a text-enabled toll-free number. This is a service that allows businesses to “text enable” existing toll-free phone numbers, so they have one number customers can either text or call them on.

It is important to remember that although “toll” free numbers are free for a consumer to call (the business pays the consumer cost), it is not free to text. The consumer would have an SMS standard fee deducted from the text plan they have with their respective carrier.

These toll-free numbers have a high throughput (though not quite as high as short codes) and are secure and approved for business use. Like 10DLC, they are another messaging option for businesses that want to start messaging quickly and easily without the higher cost sometimes associated with short codes.

Is there a pre-vetting process to be approved for 10DLC?

While Verizon does not require a pre-vetting process, AT&T and T-Mobile do. This process is like the process of applying for a dedicated short code, and involves registering your business as a brand, creating subsequent A2P campaigns for that brand, and signifying the use cases.

Where do we go from here?

As of this writing, T-Mobile just announced they are pushing out their 10DLC rollout at least a few months. Also, post-election, there is speculation that Net Neutrality will be restored which may dramatically alter the course of 10DLC enforcement. Regardless, we must assume that it will proceed as outlined and prepare ourselves & our content to ensure that we can continue to leverage the power of business text messaging well into the future.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article includes specific 10DLC program information provided by the mobile carriers and their partners and is subject to change without notice. All views or comments on this content is for informational purposes only.

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