Short code

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Short codes, also known as short numbers, are special telephone numbers, significantly shorter than full telephone numbers, which can also be used to address SMS and MMS messages from mobile phones or fixed phones.

They are designed to be shorter to read out and easier to remember than normal telephone numbers. While similar to telephone numbers, they are, at the technological level, unique to each operator, although 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).

Short codes are widely used for value-added services such as television voting, ordering ringtones, charity donations and mobile services. Messages sent to short code can be billed at a higher rate than a standard SMS.


[edit] Technology

Normal telephone numbers (following the E.164 standard) may be of any length, and so when dialled from landline telephones, the network must apply heuristics to determine when dialling is complete -- in the US, for example, dialled numbers are generally 7 or 10 digits long, with an optional prefix of "1". On mobile phones, numbers are sent all at once, 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 1 234 567 8901 (or 1 234 500 0000, or any other number that shared the prefix 12345), but on a mobile phone there is no such ambiguity.

[edit] 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

[edit] Regional differences

Short codes are six or eight digits in length, starting with the prefix "19" followed by an additional four or six digits and two.
Codes are four digits in length.
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, $1-5). Canadian Short codes are governed by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. For more information, visit
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 7 digits in length for MO and 5 (not billed) or 8 (billed) for MT direction, starting with 9, 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 CZK. Leading 3 digits are purpose type prefixes (908=micropayments, 909=adult content, 900=all other), digits at position 4 and 5 determinates the service provider registered by a network operator. There are also other 4 digit shortcodes, used by a network operators for service only purposes (operator dependent)
Codes are four 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 five digits in length.
Codes are four digits in length.
Codes are 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 3 additional characters. Texts sent to these Short Codes are commonly referred to as Premium Rate SMS Messages and cost around 80 paise to Rs. 6 per text depending on the operator as well as the service.
Codes are 4 digits in length with Rp. 2000,- (±$0.20) premium price.
Republic of Ireland
Short codes are 5 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. [1]
In Italy short codes have no fixed length, starting from 3 digits up to 5. They all start by the digit "4", which is designated by a local telecommunications law for "network services". Famous short codes are in the 48xxx range, commercial ringtones & mobile stuff download.
In Lithuania short codes also have no fixed length, starting from 3 digits up to 5. 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 RM10.00.
Codes are four to five digits in length.
Codes are five digits in length.
New Zealand
Codes are three and four digits in length.
Codes are usually 5 digits in length,starting with digits "55".
Codes are four digits in length.
Codes are four digit long (starting with 9) and six digit long (starting with 118). Due to changes in Polish Numbering Plan planned for 2009, 9xxx format will be changed to 19xxx format. Short codes are reachable from both mobile and fixed networks. Since calls to 9xxx numbers are routed based on location of fixed number originating the call f(area zone the number belongs to), mobile users have to add area code (2 digits) before Short Code to identify area zone they want to reach.

Codes are four 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. For more information please visit and

Codes are five digits in length.
The Netherlands
Codes are four digits in length.
Codes are four and five digits in length.
Codes are four digits in length.
United Kingdom
Codes are five digits in length, starting with 6 or 8. The range of codes maybe expanded in time to use other leading digits such as 7 and 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 [1] who then lease them out to service providers and advertisers to promote SMS services, charitable fundraising 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.[2] 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.[3] Short codes can be leased at the rate of $1000 a month for a selected code or $500 for a random code.[3] Some carriers assign a subset of their carrier-specific codes to third parties. For example, 4 digit codes on T-Mobile's network are reserved for a "Beta test service" or "Free to end user" marketing campaigns.[4][5]

[edit] 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.

[edit] References

  1. ^ A Short Guide to a (UK) Short Code by "Steve", March 11th, 2009
  2. ^ Common Short Code Administration Announces Open Registration of 6-Digit Codes, Press Release, CTIA, May 31, 2006
  3. ^ a b Decoding Short Codes, by Monica Alleven, WirelessWeek, April 15, 2007
  4. ^ Free to end user (FTEU) by "Steve", Digitial Marketing Blog, July 23rd, 2007
  5. ^ Personal communication, T-Mobile Customer Support

[edit] External links

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