Short Code vs Local vs Toll-Free Number: Which Should I Use and Why?


Before A2P messaging, toll-free numbers and short-code numbers had a leg up on local phone numbers. Like a fast lane for cars, toll-free and short-code allowed messaging traffic to move at a much higher throughput than a local number. And on top of that, local numbers were also subjected to heavy SPAM filtering by the mobile carriers.

But now that all business numbers — regardless of type — are required to travel along the A2P pathway, many of these advantages and perks have disappeared. All numbers, including local ones, can travel at higher throughputs. And SPAM filtering that has long hindered the full potential of local messaging has been replaced with a universal A2P registration requirement.

While this is great news for businesses that already use local numbers, it does make it harder to choose the right type of phone number for business text messaging.

So, in the spirit of making things a little easier for you, we compared short-code vs local vs toll-free numbers to help you make the right decision.

Local Numbers

A local number starts with an area code from a particular region, city, or state. Often, these numbers are used by companies with a local presence, like mom and pop restaurants, boutique clothing stores, mechanics, and grocers. But that doesn’t mean they’re strictly reserved for local businesses. If you earn the majority of your revenue from a certain state or zip code, it can be beneficial to use a local number with that location’s area code, as well.

Some of the benefits of short-code numbers include:

  • Building trust and appeal with local customers is easier
  • Establishing or reinforcing a local presence (physical or virtual) is more effective
  • Calling or texting from a local number yields better results (like high conversion rates)

And now, with the advent of A2P, local numbers also have the benefit of high throughput and better deliverability — the same as their toll-free and short-code number counterparts.

Fun fact: Did you know that you could split your voice and messaging traffic between two providers? For example, Telgorithm could host your messaging traffic while another provider could host your voice traffic. Schedule a meeting with us to learn more.

Toll-Free Numbers

Toll-free numbers (TFNs) were once used as a way to receive higher throughputs, but in the last few years, that’s become less and less a differentiating factor. Today, they function primarily as a way to avoid the high fees associated with short-codes (more on that in the next section). Whether you’re making calls or sending messages, an 800, 833, 855, or 877 area code means you don’t have to pay each time you interact with customers over the phone.

Some of the benefits of toll-free numbers include: 

  • TFN provisioning for business texting is near-instant
  • Customers trust toll-free numbers, due to their frequent commercial use
  • Free to text and call customers
  • Great for contact center support

For more information about toll-free numbers in the A2P world, read more here.

Short Code Numbers

Short-code phone numbers were once used as a way to avoid SPAM filtering by the mobile carriers. Since carriers would vet and pre-approve each short-code, reducing the risk of SPAM, short-codes could send a large volume of text messages with near 100% deliverability.

However, short-codes no longer have an advantage on this front, now that major carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have their own A2P 10DLC ecosystems, complete with a new pre-approval process and throughput up to 3x higher than short-codes.

Short-codes can be expensive though. Besides one-time setup costs that can range between $500 and $650, recurring short code lease costs could reach upwards of $4,500 per quarter, with a minimum lease requirement of three months.

In addition, the short-code approval process is 8-12 weeks, while the pre-approval process for A2P local numbers is near-instant.

With A2P 10DLC in place, which one should you use and why?

The answer to this question, as you’ve probably guessed, isn’t a simple one. It largely depends on your business messaging needs and goals. However, by reviewing the pros and cons of each type of phone number, you can get a good idea of what would be best for your business.

Just remember that choosing a type of phone number is only the beginning. Once you’ve got that squared away, you’ll need to register your phone number and campaigns with The Campaign Registry and find an A2P messaging provider, like Telgorithm, to keep you compliant too.

Ready to get started? Schedule a meeting with us to start text-enabling your phone numbers.

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