US and Canada Short Code Process

A short code is a five- or six-digit number that businesses can use to send and receive SMS messages. Short codes are an excellent choice for high-volume application-driven messaging. With a short code you can send up to 100 messages per second toward US numbers and up to 10 messages per second for Canada, and short codes are carrier-approved for application-to-person (A2P) and promotional messaging, and thus bypass carrier content filtering.

Short codes support sending SMS and MMS messages in the US and SMS only in Canada, but they aren’t suitable for all use cases. All A2P messaging in the US and Canada must adhere to certain content and use case guidelines. Any short code application submitted for prohibited categories will be rejected. 

US short codes

In the US there are two types of short codes: random and vanity. 

Random short codes are assigned by the Common Short Code Administrator (CSCA), the governing body that controls short code ownership and usage in the US. 

A vanity short code is a number you choose for branding purposes or because it’s easy to remember — such as 22222 or a short code that “spells” something, like 75486 (PLIVO). Business requests for specific vanity short codes can only be fulfilled subject to availability. Vanity short codes have a higher monthly rental cost than random ones.

Canada short codes

In Canada, short codes are assigned by the Canadian Telecommunications Association (CTA). The straightforward purchase process allows users to select a short code that aligns with their brand or campaign without being limited by predefined categories. Like US vanity short codes, Canadian short code requests are subject to availability.

Acquiring a short code

Any Plivo customer can submit a short code application. Here’s how the process works.

  • Read up on application guidelines for the US or Canada.
  • Download and complete an application form for the US or Canada, depending on where you want to use the short code. Ensure you carefully follow all the guidelines specified in the form to prevent delays or rejection of your application.
  • File the document in a ticket with our support team. We’ll review your application; you might be asked to provide additional information. This process usually takes no more than a week.
  • After our team vets your application, you must add the necessary funds to your account so that we can procure the short code. 

Carriers typically require upfront leasing payments in minimum three-month intervals. To streamline the process, we collect these fees when you submit your application. The fees must cover both the one-time setup fee and advance payment of the rental fee for the initial three months for the US and four months for Canada, counting from the beginning of the application process onward, not from the time it goes live. These fees are nonrefundable and still apply if your short code application is rejected by one or more operators. 

  • Plivo will purchase the short code on your behalf and submit the application to all operators. 
  • Individually, operators will review the application, along with any associated websites or mobile apps, and either approve it or return it with questions or concerns. Plivo will work with you to meet operator requirements, but we cannot guarantee that operators will approve the application. During this stage, the short code will be integrated into the carrier's network and undergo testing. This process may take six to eight weeks, as multiple carriers are involved in the review.
  • Once the short code is tested and approved by all operators, it will go live and we will configure it for your account.

Disclaimer: Plivo does not have control over carrier regulations, nor can we interpret laws, rules, or regulations. While we do assist in addressing short code compliance issues with the carriers, we strongly recommend seeking legal counsel to ensure adherence to applicable laws, regulations, and your company's specific practices. Each carrier reserves the right to suspend short code service for any user at any time.

Porting a short code 

In addition to renting a new short code, you can also port an existing short code from your current provider to Plivo. When porting a short code, we must submit a new application to the operators with Plivo as the messaging provider. 

To proceed with a US port-in request, we need a three-month payment receipt. If payments were made on a quarterly basis, we need one receipt. If the payments were made on a monthly basis, we need three receipts. The receipt must be the most recent receipt with all the correct information.

We also need the authorization of the short code in CSCA. This is generally completed by your current short code provider straight from the CSCA customer portal without anyone needing to submit legal documentation. 

To proceed with a Canada port-in request, we need a copy of the approved short code application from your current provider. If they’re unable to furnish it, contact the Canadian Telecommunications Association to obtain the necessary copy.

For both the US and Canada, we may request a migration letter on your company letterhead. If we do, our support team will provide you with a letter template.

Once we have all of these details, we’ll submit the porting application to the carrier. Throughout the porting process, your current provider will continue to support services on the short code. When the application is approved by the operators, a port-in date will be set. On that date, the short code will go live with Plivo. To avoid downtime, the operators allow a short grace period where traffic will flow through both Plivo and the previous provider.

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