What is A2P 10DLC? Guide to A2P & P2P SMS for Business
Kyle Kuczynski
Kyle Kuczynski
MessageDesk Co-Founder & CMO
Updated: Jan 02, 2022

Learn About P2P, A2P, 10DLC, Toll-Free SMS, and Long Codes vs Short Codes for Business Texting

The world of text messaging and telecommunications is complex. You’ve got a bunch of ways to text and send messages.

But…

In 2021 mass texting changed as carriers began cracking down on spam messages and increasing messaging fees.

Does your business or organization want to text with customers or reach a lot of people? Then you’ll need to understand:

  1. What is P2P SMS texting?
  2. What is A2P SMS texting?
  3. What is 10DLC?
  4. What are text-enabled toll-free SMS numbers?
  5. What are short codes?
  6. The advantages and disadvantages of short codes, 10DLC, and toll-free SMS numbers
  7. 6 reasons why you should send A2P texts using 10DLC or toll-free SMS numbers
  8. How to send bulk text messages with a business texting service

This is why I've written a guide to P2P, A2P, 10DLC, and more.

I’ll show you the difference between shortcodes vs long codes, text-enabled toll-free numbers. And I’ll cover how to get set up with an A2P 10DLC business text messaging service like MessageDesk.

Read on for more.

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P2P SMS vs. A2P SMS

You’re probably familiar with 1-on-1 text messaging and group text messages sent from your smartphone. But 1-on-1 and group texts are different from mass texts sent from a bulk text service.

So the first thing you need to understand about sending text messages as a business or organization is the difference between P2P SMS and A2P SMS.

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What is Person-to-Person P2P SMS Text Messaging?

P2P stands for person-to-person or peer-to-peer texting. This is when two or more people text 1-on-1 or in a group text message from their personal phones using iMessage, Google Messages, or another app. Carriers limit how many person-to-person P2P SMS messages you can send. This is why they’re meant for personal communication, not business text messaging.

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What is Application-to-Person A2P SMS Text Messaging?

A2P stands for application-to-person messaging. Businesses and organizations use A2P software applications and business text messaging services to send text messages from a computer to many mobile devices. Application-to-person A2P SMS text messages get sent at thousands of messages per second using carrier-vetted SMS gateways. This makes A2P ideal for business text messaging.

Breakdown: P2P SMS vs. A2P SMS

P2P SMS A2P SMS
Message Originator Person (Personal Phone) Software (Business Text Messaging Service)
Messages Per Second 1 10+
Carrier Approved for Business Texting 🚫

The big difference between A2P and P2P messaging comes down to who’s sending texts and how they’re sending them.

People send P2P text messages manually, one-by-one. This is normally done on an iPhone or Android. There are also numerous P2P instant messaging systems and group text apps.

Whereas a broadcast text messaging service like MessageDesk often sends A2P text messages automatically in mass.

Your takeaway: carriers approve of A2P texting for business messaging. But peer-to-peer P2P messaging is meant for consumers and personal use only.

There’s another reason for the two different texting channels.

Carriers give businesses and organizations trust scores based on their messaging habits. They’re held to higher texting and communication standards than consumers for promotional and transactional messages.

You can check out the CTIA Guidelines, FCC guidelines, and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) compliance guide for the specifics.

How does A2P messaging work?

A2P messaging works by registering a “brand” and a campaign with carriers using services like Campaign Registry.

Most A2P business texting services like MessageDesk already have carrier relationships through platforms like Bandwidth, Twilio, and Vonage. This makes A2P approval through Campaign Registry easier for your business or organization.

All it takes to get A2P approval on your existing phone number with MessageDesk is one form submission.

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Examples of A2P messages and campaigns:

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10DLC Long Codes vs. Short Codes vs. Toll-Free SMS Numbers

Ok, I’ve made the differences between P2P and A2P messaging clear. Now it’s time to look at the different types of phone numbers you can use to send A2P text messages.

When it comes to phone numbers, you’ll find three different types in North America:

  1. 10DLC ten-digit long codes
  2. 5 and 6-digit shortcodes
  3. Text-enabled toll-free numbers (TETFs)

All of these number types are viable for sending business text messages. But each comes with its own features that you’ll want to be aware of.

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What is 10DLC (10-Digit Long Code)?

10DLC stands for 10-digit long code phone number. A 10-digit long code 10DLC phone number looks like this: (123) 456-7890. Carriers used to limit 10DLC phone numbers to P2P texting and calling for personal use. But businesses and organizations can now use 10DLC numbers for local A2P messaging and business SMS sends. You can even text-enable an existing landline number.

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What are Short Codes?

A shortcode is a 5 or 6-digit short phone number like “222333”. SMS short codes are used for one-way mass text message sends. Short codes were first popularized by American Idol in 2003 with their “text-to-vote” campaigns. Businesses and organizations now use shortcodes for all kinds of “text this phrase to…” campaigns and text blasts. Texting with these numbers typically starts with an opt-in message. Once a user opts in they can text simple one-word replies for more information.

Shared vs. dedicated short codes

Authorizing and enabling a shortcode has traditionally been expensive and inaccessible for most small businesses and organizations.

As a result, businesses started leasing shared short codes, like 111222 to keep costs low. Shared short codes normally require a one-time setup fee.

But there’s no overhead.

You only pay for the messages you send while incoming SMS messages are free.

A dedicated shortcode is a number that only your business or organization may use. These are expensive and they take time to acquire.

A dedicated shortcode may be randomly generated or your business can select a custom “vanity” shortcode. Vanity short codes may look like “287437” - spelling out “BURGER”.

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What are Text-Enabled Toll-Free SMS Numbers (TETFs)?

Text-enabled toll-free numbers (TETFs) are 10-digit numbers with an 800 prefix. They don’t use local area codes but they’re intended for toll-free SMS. You can call and text other mobile phones just like any other 10DLC number. Many organizations use toll-free SMS numbers to provide customer support, send appointment reminders, provide order tracking, book reservations, and send marketing and sales promotions.

TETFs are approved for A2P SMS, so they allow businesses and organizations to send higher volumes of text messages (text blasts).

You can use both 10DLC texting numbers and toll-free SMS 800 numbers for A2P when you create a MessageDesk account.

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Short Codes, 10DLC and Toll-Free SMS Numbers

There are three different ways to send A2P text messages. But which way is best for your business or organization?

Start by asking yourself:

  1. How important is a local area code?
  2. Do you want to offer conversational experiences and be able to send and receive texts?
  3. How big is your contact list and how many messages do you need to send?
  4. Do you want voice and text enablement on the same number?
  5. How much is cost a consideration?

10DLC long codes vs. short codes vs. toll-free SMS numbers

5 or 6-Digit Short Codes 10DLC Long Codes Text-Enabled Toll-Free SMS Numbers
Number Formatting 99999 or 555555 (123) 456-7890 (888) 123-4567
Per Second Message Send Rate 40-100 1-10 5-20
A2P SMS Approved
Voice-Enabled 🚫
Two-Way Conversational Texting 🚫
Cost $$$$ $$ $

Advantages of short codes

  • Short codes have high throughput
    Short codes were designed for mass text messages sent to thousands of people. They’re great when it comes to volume.
  • People are more likely to remember a shortcode
    Short codes are inherently short. This makes it easy for customers to remember.

Disadvantages of short codes

  • Short codes don’t come from a local area code
    Receiving a text from a 5 or 6-digit number feels impersonal. There’s no area code to let users know this is a local number.
  • Potential responses are limited
    Short codes aren’t conversational because they limit how customers can respond. You can’t respond to customer texts with a short code the same way you can with a 10DLC number.
  • The user experience with short codes isn’t conversational or personalized
    Business text messaging is trending toward more personalized communication. Customers prefer personalization and short codes don’t make this possible.
  • Costs are high and availability is limited
    Texting from a dedicated short code is expensive. There are services that can provide you with a short code. But the process takes time and carriers are even beginning to deprecate the use and availability of short codes.

Advantages of 10DLC:

  • 10DLC numbers look like normal phone numbers
    10DLC numbers allow your organization to text and call customers from a local phone number. You can even text-enable an existing landline or VoIP line.
  • 10DLC is great for 1-on-1 customer communications
    Texting customers using a 10-digit long code make your customers feel like they’re texting with friends and family. It’s the same experience, just translated for business purposes.
  • Personalized customer service experiences make more sense with long codes
    A message that comes from a standard, 10-digit number feels like it’s coming from a person, not a bot. That makes long codes perfect for providing a personalized customer service experience.
  • 10DLC improves text message open rates
    Text messages have up to a 98% open rate when they’re sent from a recognizable 10-digit phone number.

Disadvantages of 10DLC:

  • High throughput but not as high as short codes or toll-free SMS numbers
    Carriers allowing businesses and organizations to send A2P messages using a 10DLC number greatly increases messaging throughput. But it’s still not as high as a short code or toll-free SMS number.
  • It can take some time to provision a 10DLC number
    Mass SMS services typically need some sort of identification or proof that your business or organization won’t spam people before they give you a 10DLC number. This approval process can take some time.

Advantages of text-enabled toll-free SMS numbers

  • Higher throughput and fewer carrier restrictions
    Toll-free SMS numbers are the carrier-preferred way for businesses and organizations to text. They come with fewer restrictions and higher messaging through-put than a normal 10DLc number.
  • You can text and call 1-on-1 using an 800 number
    Just like a 10DLC number, you can text and call conversationally with contacts and customers using a toll-free SMS number.
  • Toll-free SMS numbers are cheaper
    Setting up a toll-free SMS number is about half the cost of buying a 10DLC number with a local area code.

Disadvantages of text-enabled toll-free SMS numbers

  • Not as personalized as a 10DLC number
    10DLC numbers allow you to text and call from a number using a local area code. This is often important for small businesses that operate locally.

6 Reasons Why You Should Send A2P Texts Using 10DLC or Toll-Free SMS Numbers

1. Higher text message throughput

Short codes used to be the only way for businesses to send high volumes of text messages.

Local 10DLC and toll-free SMS numbers change all of that.

Both make it possible to send high volumes of text messages.

2. Two-way, conversational text messaging

Customers prefer one-on-one two-way conversations when talking with businesses. Emails don’t get opened and no one talks on the phone unless it’s urgent.

Toll-free SMS numbers and 10DLC messaging allow your organization to send personalized, conversational messages at scale.

3. Text-enable existing landlines and text to voice integrations

Because 10DLC and toll-free SMS numbers use the same number convention you can text enable your existing business landline.

For more advanced VOIP users, you can even use the same number to translate it from text to voice.

4. Voice enablement

Not only can you text customers at scale, but you can also call them too. 10DLC and toll-free SMS numbers come voice-enabled.

With both numbers, you can consolidate and centralize your customer communications channels with one line.

5. Lower text messaging costs

The cost for a business to use A2P with a 10DLC or toll-free SMS number is lower. We’re talking a few hundred dollars per month.

Compare this to a few thousand dollars per month for a dedicated short code.

6. Business SMS and MMS sends

10DLC and toll-free SMS allow you to send text messages and MMS messages. You can enhance your messages with coupons, product images, and other rich media.

Eventually, RCS (Rich Communication Services) will replace MMS. You’ll get even richer features and functionality like file sharing, read receipts, and more from a 10DLC number.

How to Send A2P Bulk SMS with MessageDesk

1. Create a free MessageDesk account

Visit the MessageDesk website to create a free account.

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2. Navigate to the Plugins module of your MessageDesk account

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3. Select the A2P 10DLC brand registration plugin

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4. Click on Begin Registration

Enter in all of your organization's information.

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Ready to start sending business text messages?

MessageDesk offers smarter, simpler ways to send text messages using carrier vetter A2P SMS channels.

We’re here to get your business or organization set up with a 10DLC or toll-free SMS number to start more conversations.