There are two kinds of short codes, shared and dedicated.

Dedicated short codes are dedicated for one customer, and are costly and take awhile to set up – in South Africa it can cost anywhere from R8,500 to R12,000 per year and could take between one and two months to get it allocated.

Shared short codes are shared among customers and use keywords to identify their traffic.
Keyword costs are normally less costly and affordable, and you can access these services from companies like SMSS ( , GlobalSMS ( , SA Short-Codes ( , Bulk SMS Services ( to mention only a few. (A more comprehensive list of Premium SMS Service Providers is available at the end of this article)

If you want to obtain a dedicated short code or a keyword, you can choose between several Service Providers. Since all Service Providers offer different services, its highly recommended to use a Provider that's registered with most or all of the following regulatory bodies: WASPA, SMSCA and the DMA.

Registration of dedicated short codes is only part of the process if you want your own code. You’ll probably want to go to one of the dozen or so SMS aggregator companies that have relationships with different carriers like SMSS, or Clickatell. It's advisable to research prices and compare services, because all provide similar services, but the most important factors that determine the success of your campaign/competition are their ability to deliver high end support, and client satisfaction, not to mention legitimate service offerings. The safest route is always to look at customer ratings or references which is generally pretty accurate in this particular industry.

The method of obtaining and using short codes is different in different countries — don’t assume it’s a global world when it comes to carriers and use of short codes. Particularly African countries and the US are somewhat more difficult than many other countries.

It’s also not like the open Internet, and you could be shut down at any time if you abuse the short code, ignore regulations or use a non-registered provider. Often startups that have created mobile applications using short codes find out they’ve been snubbed when the service goes dead all of a sudden. Not fun and could be very costly and to top it all could land you in trouble with authorities!

If you are or want to provide content, you should take all necessary precautions to ensure legitimacy. According to WASPA and SMSCA you generally have to refrain from: pornographic, prostitution/escort, gambling, hate, alcohol or drug related content.”

Network configuration and control could be extremely frustrating for all providers from the smallest  to the largest. Reputable providers are therefore the key to success since they generally have better experience and knowledge regarding Premium SMS Services.

If you SMS the word HELP or STOP to a short code, the service should respond. This was implemented to help end-users to stop unsolicited services and to learn more about short code services.

Here’s a site that provided hundreds of registered keywords and short codes. Some keywords on this list might be familiar:CURVES , DSTV, FAITH, OCEAN , FLOWERS4U, TRANSNET, OLX.

An alternative to inbound SMS is based on long numbers (international number format, e.g. +27872480500), 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 shared short codes which are usually shared across a number of brands. Additionally, long numbers are non-premium inbound numbers.

Established Short Code Service Providers:
Providers below are only recommended and not guaranteed by us (List not complete)·