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What do I need to know about two-way messaging in the United States?

What are the two-way options are available?

Clickatell offers dedicated short codes and long numbers for the USA.
Types of dedicated short codes available:

  • Random short code – you’ll be assigned a random 5 or 6 digit number

  • Vanity short code – request your own custom 5 or 6 digit number


Which type of two-way number is best for your business?

For more information, read our FAQ about the difference between short codes and long numbers.

Below is additional information to decide which two-way option is best for your business:

Short codes can either be random numbers or a hand-picked recognizable 5-6 digit number. Large brands usually opt for a dedicated short code to use on their marketing material and as a recognizable from address when sending high volume marketing or promotional messages.

Short codes are best for:

  • High volume Application-to-Person messaging with throughput support of more than 1mps time-sensitive, critical messages such as bank account alerts, travel notifications, delivery updates, and OTPs.

Long numbers are less expensive than short codes and present an easy way for smaller businesses to integrate two-way SMS messaging into their business processes to improve customer service.

Long numbers are best for:

  • Businesses with person-to-person message requirements of no more than one message per second.

  • Appointment or booking reminders – for example, a restaurant sending an SMS reminder for a table reservation and receiving a confirmation back from the customer.

  • Triggered messages based on processes – for example, for the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions where the user will respond with a command.

  • Personalized messages based on customer interactions – for example, to confirm an order placed by a customer on your website.


Expected provisioning times for two-way numbers

Clickatell holds stock of long numbers and they are therefore available immediately after purchase.

Short codes require approval from all supported mobile carriers. Clickatell will procure the short code and coordinate the approval process on your behalf. The entire process can take around 8-12 weeks.


What are the costs involved with using a two-way number?

Both long numbers and short codes usually have once-off application fees as well as monthly subscription fees.

You pay a per-message fee for all outgoing messages that you send from your number, but all incoming messages are FREE.

To see pricing, go to the Clickatell pricing estimator, choose the United States, select your two-way option of choice, and indicate your expected outbound message volumes. Please bear in mind that all pricing is estimated as costs are calculated at the time of sending.


Best practices
  • The Mobile Marketing Association provides some useful trends and best practices for marketing to consumers via mobile.

  • When sending messages to the US, you’ll need a long number or short code to deliver messages even if you do not want to receive replies. The reason for this is to ensure that customers can opt-out of your messages at any time as per the CTIA guidelines.

  • Application-to-person (A2P) messages sent via long numbers may be subject to carrier filtering. It is generally recommended that long numbers are used for lower volume traffic at a maximum throughput of one message per second from a single long number to avoid possible carrier-end filtering. A Clickatell long number is limited to 5000 messages per day.

We’ve compiled some general best practices for SMS campaigns which you can read here.


Regulatory information

Consult your legal team to ensure that your opt-in and opt-out processes, message content and all other aspects of your message sending strategy comply with the applicable legislation to avoid your number from being blocked, or substantial fines imposed.

Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) represents the US wireless communications industry and companies throughout the mobile ecosystem. All short code usage should comply with a code of conduct as outlined in the CTIA Short code monitoring handbook.

The SMS-applicable rules adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) became effective on October 16th of 2013 and you should also familiarize yourself with the regulations set out within this Act.

CAN SPAM - since you're reaching your customers directly on their mobile devices through text messages, it’s important that you follow the same rules of consent that you would when communicating with them via any other electronic medium.

Lastly, ensure that your use of two-way numbers is in line with the Clickatell terms and conditions.


Applying for a two-way number

Sign up for a Clickatell Platform account here and apply for a two-way number from within your account. Here are step-by-step guides if you need any help along the way:

During the festive season, some network carriers in the United States implement a freeze period on short code processing. The freeze period usually ranges from mid-December to mid-January. It is therefore recommended that short code provisioning and amendments/migrations are done before the freeze period to avoid delays.


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