SMS Phone Number Guide | How to Choose Phone Numbers for SMS
SMS Phone Number Guide | How to Choose Phone Numbers for SMS

Choosing SMS Phone Numbers: Ten Digit Long Codes (10DLC), Toll Free Numbers, Virtual Numbers (VoIP), & Short Codes

Your phone number is your identity. It’s the number that contacts, customers, clients, employees, and everyone else know when they need to call you.

And in addition to calling, people now want to text with your business or organization.

In fact, 67% of consumers prefer texting with a business or organization for things like appointment scheduling, reminders, payments, and more.

But, choosing the right number for SMS texting requires some insight and knowledge.

In this article, I answer your SMS phone number questions and cover:

  1. What an SMS number is
  2. The 4 types of online SMS phone numbers you can use for texting
  3. 10DLC vs. toll-free numbers vs. virtual numbers vs. short codes
  4. How to get an SMS phone number for business text messaging

By the end, you should know exactly what kind of number you need to start texting.

Read on for more.

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4 Types of SMS Phone Numbers

SMS phone numbers aren’t just disposable numbers on your mobile phone. Plus, using your personal phone for work isn’t ideal (especially when it comes to texting).

So to text-enable your phone line, you’ll need to go through a business texting service, like MessageDesk. A business texting software makes it possible to:

But not all SMS phone numbers are created equal. The trick is to select the type of phone number that best meets your needs.

Below, are the four types of SMS phone numbers to choose from.

Example: (775) 313-9465

10DLC number advantages and benefits

10DLC SMS numbers work especially well for smaller, local, businesses and organizations. They’re great for conversational text messaging.

You can leverage your 10DLC SMS number to start text conversations from your website, send texts about product or service updates, ask for reviews, send notifications or appointment reminders, and more.

  • 10DLC numbers look like normal phone numbers
    10DLC numbers allow your organization to text and call from a local phone number. You can even text-enable an existing landline or VoIP line.
  • 10DLC is great for two-way communications
    Texting from a 10-digit long code makes your contacts feel like they’re texting conversationally.
  • Personalized experiences are easier 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 more personalized messaging.
  • 10DLC numbers lead to higher text message open, click, and engagement rates
    Text messages have up to a 98% open rate when they’re sent from a familiar 10-digit phone number.

10DLC number limitations and drawbacks

10DLC SMS phone numbers aren’t as suitable for larger organizations. Especially those that need to send high volumes of text messages.

If your volume exceeds a specific limit, carriers might classify your messages as spam. This is why your SMS messages won’t get delivered.

  • 10DLC doesn’t have throughput like short codes or toll-free SMS numbers
    Carriers do allow businesses and organizations to send high-volume A2P messages using a 10DLC number. This can greatly increase your 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
    Bulk SMS services typically need some sort of identification or proof of who you are. They ask this because of spam protections. This approval process can take some time.
Example: 1-800-265-4321

Text-enabled toll-free SMS number advantages and benefits

Toll-free numbers are best suited for larger businesses and organizations. Toll-free numbers are the way to go if you need to send large-scale text message broadcasts and text blasts. They work especially well for text message marketing.

  • Toll free number texting has higher throughput and fewer carrier spam restrictions
    Toll free texting numbers are the carrier-preferred way for larger businesses and organizations to text. They come with fewer restrictions and higher messaging throughput than a normal 10DLC number.
  • You can text and call using an 800 number
    Just like a 10DLC number, you can text and call conversationally with contacts and customers using toll-free number SMS.
  • Toll-free SMS numbers are cheaper
    Setting up a toll-free SMS number costs about half as much as a 10DLC number with a local area code.

Text-enabled toll-free SMS number limitations and drawbacks

  • Not as personalized as 10DLC SMS numbers
    Toll free numbers don’t use local area codes. This is often important for small businesses and organizations that operate locally.

Online virtual text number advantages and benefits

With a virtual number for SMS, you can send texts from any device (laptops, tablets, and PCs) without a physical phone. These numbers are also easy to port to new providers and use with other services because everything is digital.

  • Virtual phone numbers are highly portable
    Virtual phone numbers are easy to activate, deactivate, and transfer across different messaging and voice providers.
  • Online numbers are easy to access and connect to other services
    Virtual online phone numbers allow you to text and call from any device. These numbers are tied to software. This makes them versatile and easy to access (especially as a team).
  • Virtual numbers work with any type of phone number
    10DLC, toll-free and short codes can all be used as virtual online phone numbers.
  • Online numbers are approved for high-volume text messaging
    Just like 10DLC and toll free numbers, virtual numbers can support high volumes of text messages.

Online virtual text number limitations and drawbacks

There really are no limitations when using online phone numbers for texting compared to traditional business landlines. The only drawback is that it can take a while to get a virtual number.

  • Virtual numbers require business texting and/or VoIP software
    You’ll need to contact an SMS number provider to provision a virtual number.
  • Virtual numbers can take a while to access and provision
    Getting a virtual number and getting approved for high-volume messaging can take some time.
Example: 425-907

Short code SMS number advantages and benefits

Short code SMS numbers are best for sending out a high volume of messages like text blasts. Short codes only work for one-way communication such as alerts, polls, event notifications, and promotional message blasts.

  • Short codes have the highest messaging throughput
    Short codes were designed for sending mass text messages to thousands of people. They’re great when you need to send messages in high volumes.
  • People are more likely to remember a shortcode
    Short codes are inherently short. This makes it easy for people to remember them.
  • Short codes work well with autoresponders
    Autoresponders trigger automatic text responses. When someone texts a keyword like SUBSCRIBE to a short code number, they automatically receive a text message.

Short code SMS number limitations and drawbacks

Short codes support high-volume SMS and MMS messages, but they’re expensive. Getting a dedicated short code can cost you roughly $1500, and rental charges vary between $500 and $1000 per month.

Provisioning and setting up a short code can take six to twelve weeks. If you’re just looking to text from a business phone number, then this number type isn’t the best fit.

  • Short codes don’t use local area codes
    Receiving a text from a 5 or 6-digit number feels impersonal. When it comes to 10DLC vs. short codes, there’s no area code.
  • Short codes don’t support two-way texting
    Short codes aren’t conversational. They limit how people can respond. You can’t respond to texts with a short code as you would with a 10DLC or toll free number.
  • Short codes are expensive and availability is limited
    Texting from a short code can be 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.

Shared short code numbers vs. dedicated short code numbers

You can also choose a vanity or dedicated short code to reinforce your brand identity. For example, 7-Eleven uses the vanity short code “711711” to text their customers.

But authorizing and enabling a dedicated shortcode is expensive and not accessible for most small businesses and organizations.

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

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

10DLC vs. Toll-Free Numbers vs. Virtual Numbers vs. Short Codes

10-Digit Local Phone Number (10DLC) Toll-Free SMS Number VoIP Online Text Number Short Code
Digits (123) 456-7890 (888) 123-4567 (xxx) xxx-xxxx 55555 or 666666
One-way text messaging
Two-way text messaging 🚫
Number Customization 🚫
Voice Capable 🚫
Throughput (messages you can send per-second) 1-5 10-20 10-20 100+
Provisioning (time until functional) Days Seconds Days Weeks
Cost 💰 💰 💰💰 💰💰💰
Frequent uses Conversational messaging (customer service, sales, support, etc.) Conversaitonal, transactional and promotional messaging (notifications, alerts and more) Conversaitonal and transactional messaging (notifications, alerts and more) Marketing, promotional messages, advertisements, offers
Best for Local businesses and organizations that need conversational texting with groups of contacts Small to medium-sized businesses and organizations that need to reach wider audiences Small to medium-sized businesses and organizations with teams and various departments Large businesses and organizations that only send one-way promotional texts

How to Get an SMS Phone Number for Business Text Messaging

Looking to text-enable an existing business number? Or are you trying to get a new SMS phone number? Here’s how to get started.

1. Choose an SMS phone number provider

The first step to getting an SMS phone number is choosing a number provider.

There are many great business texting number services out there, including MessageDesk. These platforms often support both 10DLC numbers and toll free numbers.

If you’re looking to get your whole team texting, then you’ll want a service with a shared team SMS inbox.

Doing large-scale SMS marketing campaigns? You’ll want an SMS marketing service or mass text app that supports text message broadcasts.

MessageDesk offers features designed to suit both of the above business texting needs.


2. Create a free account

The next step is to create a free account. You can do this with MessageDesk by meeting with one of our messaging experts to learn more.


3. Select a new SMS phone number or text-enable your existing business phone

Next, you’ll need to select a number or use your existing business phone line. MessageDesk gives you a range of options including both local 10DLC SMS numbers and toll-free SMS numbers.

To text from your existing business number or landline, you’ll need to submit a number porting request.


Note: It will likely take from 1-7 days to successfully text-enable your business number once you submit your request. Sometimes, this process is referred to as number hosting (not to be confused with number porting).
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Ready to start texting?

Text messaging can help promote your products and services, keep connected to contacts, send updates, and facilitate internal communication.

But you can only harness these benefits once you’ve chosen the right type of phone number for texting.

MessageDesk is here to help you select a new SMS number or text-enable your existing business landline.

Meet with a messaging expert to learn more.

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