- When did 10DLC start?
- Why the 10DLC regulation?
- What is spam?
- Toll-free numbers
- Inbound messaging
Most of our customers using the SMS and Messages API will have heard of the 10DLC regulation, but if you are new to the messaging industry, here's a quick explanation of what 10DLC is and why it has been introduced in the United States.
10DLC stands for 10-Digit Long Codes. In the past, only approved short codes (5- or 6-digit numbers) could be used as sender identities for business text messaging. Now, 10DLC is also sanctioned by U.S. mobile carriers, meaning our customers can leverage typical 10-digit phone numbers (also called Long Virtual Numbers - LVN) to send and receive messages for their business. Short codes are still an option, but restrictions set in place mean that now only dedicated short codes can be used, preventing multiple companies to share the same code, and the recipients of these messages to be unable to clearly identify who originated a specific message for this number.
If you have a business, brand, or enterprise, large or small, you’ve probably considered using (or have already used) SMS to reach your customers, partners, or employees. Text messaging has been one of the most utilized communications media ever in terms of reach. The ability to send business text messages using long codes or “regular phone numbers” (e.g., 10DLCs) opens this media up for many more businesses in the United States.
When did 10DLC begin?
In the past, the carriers did not always sanction the usage of 10DLC numbers for business messages. Around 2008, a number of new innovative service providers launched SMS-compatible messaging services using 10-digit phone numbers. These were strictly person-to-person messaging apps, but they still attracted a lot of business attention. They were a disruptive force that became a catalyst for how U.S. business texting evolved.
Between 2010 and 2017, the U.S. CTIA published several revisions that addressed new service providers coming into the U.S. market, using SMS and specifically 10DLCs. For a long time, A2P SMS via 10DLCs was unsanctioned. But on January 19, 2017, the new "Messaging Principles and Best Practices" was published by the CTIA. 10DLC for business messaging was now officially codified in the official U.S. messaging guidelines. (Since then, the CTIA published a newer revision of Messaging Principles and Best Practices in May 2023.)
Over the next four years, the industry has methodically begun working with U.S. carriers to design business plans to officially launch 10DLC business messaging. In the second half of 2019 and throughout 2020, the potential of 10DLC Business Messaging traffic began to come to fruition at long last.
Why the 10DLC regulation?
If you’ve been frustrated that the U.S. carriers were taking so long to officially approve 10DLC business messaging traffic on their networks, understand what mobile messaging executive David Diggs said:
“When things go wrong in messaging, people automatically turn to their mobile carrier. It is the carrier who’s on the hook for any bad actors, spam, or other issues a consumer might have, regardless of who is really responsible.” David also noted that “carriers would also hear from policymakers like states attorneys general, regulators and the House and Senate when customers receive unwanted messages.”
It is true, no matter who is at fault, most consumers will turn to their carriers first when experiencing an issue. Therefore, the carriers need to be very careful and methodical when determining the new rules to apply to the messaging ecosystem.
Even if most businesses want to follow the guidelines and comply with the regulations, there are unfortunately many bad actors who will do everything they can to exploit, hack or circumvent the rules. Now, with the 10DLC regulation, all businesses (non-profits, brands, enterprises, schools, governmental agencies, churches and more) can use a typical phone number to send non Person-to-Person (P2P) messages, that is to say messages send via an application or API.
Rules and laws exist. The TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) states that consumers must opt-in to receive commercial messages and that these messages should be wanted. Otherwise, it is spam.
What is spam?
Spam can ruin a very good communication channel quickly. This applies to 10DLC numbers as much as it applies to short codes or emails.
Those policies, from the CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices to carriers' own rules, and even the TCPA – are meant to keep mobile messaging clean. They are not in place to undermine the usage of 10DLC numbers or prevent businesses from using them. However, we need to keep the ecosystem free from unwanted messaging and bad actors.
To that end, many U.S. carriers and industry players now support a common registry called The Campaign Registry. The Campaign Registry (TCR) calls itself a reputation authority for business messaging on 10DLC. Today, anyone that wants to send messages to a US consumer is required to register their business as a 10DLC brand, and register 10DLC campaigns for all the messages they will send using non P2P mechanisms.
We should note that Toll-free numbers (8xx numbers) are classified as 10DLC numbers as well. Though the registration process differs from the other 10 digit numbers. Toll-free numbers (TFNs) are also capable of sending messages to consumers, and require a registration to prevent messages from being filtered. Please check this page for more. Today, there are over 44 million toll-free numbers and at least 10% are text enabled. The national toll-free registry company Somos started the Texting & Smart Services (TTS) registry in 2015, after working with the CTIA to "find a permanent solution that would be administered by a neutral third party."
Toll-free numbers have been sanctioned and supported by U.S. carriers for several years. They're a special case, but still part of the 10DLC ecosystem. Adding texting to a business toll-free number opens a number of potential new doors, even above and beyond the ability to “call or text our toll-free number”.
10DLC enables commercial text messages to & from a business's own phone number. For example, if a national retail chain has 1,000 locations, each with their own phone number, why not text-enable all of these? That sends a powerful message to consumers. Back to Somos for a moment. They quote some statistics that say 69% of consumers would like the ability to text a business and 39% wished more businesses texted them. And 75% of consumers are frustrated when they can’t reply to business texts.
Check out our 10DLC guide of guides for more information on how to register to 10DLC using our Dashboard or our public APIs.
We have also prepared an article to review how 10DLC compares with toll-free numbers and dedicated short codes.
If you have further questions around 10DLC or the other options for SMS and MMS messaging in the United States, please reach out to our sales team or to your account manager. We will be happy to look into your specific use case and find the best options for you.
For customers that have not yet leveraged our messaging capabilities on their numbers, this could be an opportunity to enable more interactions with your employees or customers, increase engagement through chatbots or a backend-contact center. Vonage has a wide suite of services to enable multiple communication channels between you and your customers (voice, SMS, messaging, video and more). Why not work towards helping that 75% of consumers who would love to be able to reply to a commercial text?
10DLC is a game-changer for business messaging in the United States – whether it’s existing business numbers, or new numbers assigned to them for texting purposes. Today, we see several billion fully approved, sanctioned 10DLC messages flowing through the messaging ecosystem, and we expect that number to grow substantially this year and in the foreseeable future. In that aspect, at least for the United States market, 10DLC business messaging is the first new messaging revolution for this decade.