Monday, June 30, 2008

CSC - what you should know

I’ve put together information to help answer client questions around common short codes (CSC's) over the last few years (in particular around licensing of USA short codes) and I thought it might be of interest to a few people who may be thinking about implementing a campaign using this 'contact' methodology tool.

There are a number of areas to consider when it comes to mobile marketing in the USA. There are fuzzy rules and regulations from CTIA and Neustar, the carriers themselves and unofficial guidelines from the MMA , there are regular changes to the mma guidelines so best to check in on a regular basis.

A lot of this will change over time as it has in other markets as the market matures(Australia and the Europe for example) . In addition some of the pricing and revenue sharing opportunities from premium sms will come have to become more reasonable over time.

At the moment it just plain sucks here in the USA. Industry pundits wonder why SMS marketing is behind global's really simple - USA carriers suck in their pricing models.

At the end of the day the carriers have the final right to rule what traffic they do and don’t carry on their networks but if you follow the documentation you should be right most of the time. mBlox is an aggregator I've worked with in the past and puts out a very good document detailing each of the individual carrier changes as they happen so make sure that you get onto this mailing list.

As you already know in order to conduct a mobile marketing campaign in the USA the CTIA (The US Cellular Carriers Association require each company to register and deliver from a 5 digit Common Short Code or CSC’s. These CSC’s are 5 or 6 digit numbers in the range of 20000 to 99999 and once registered will be accepted as commercial traffic originator across all US carriers.

The CTIA have assigned Neustar as the registry of these common short codes and they can be applied for from this website

The license fee for these CSC’s are as follows;
Randomly allocated CSC of 5 or 6 digits $500 per month
Selected (or Vanity number) of 5 or 6 digits $1,000 per month

Generally companies will try and register a CSC that fits with the branding of their product name on an alphanumeric handset 73774 = PEPSI
Or a derivative of it such as 62288 = NBCTV

You can search here to see if the CSC you think would best suit your company is available here

Technically if a number is already taken by company X you cannot purchase or buyout the CSC from company X as it actually belongs to Neustar, however we have seen the transfer of some shortcodes as larger companies came in to the market only to find someone already using the one they wanted.

Also keep in mind you might want to be searching for either a single CSC or for a variety of CSC’s to represent each of the various business units (or break them out to individual licenses to maintain delivery integrity).

Something to be aware of is that CTIA/Neustar didn't release 6 digit codes until the spring of 2006…..

It’s not an official list but a good list to see what other short codes are out there is
This list was put together by a company frustrated with the lack of validated information available and is updated on a regular basis.

Regardless of whether you proceed with the 5 or 6 digit number the one thing to keep in mind when applying for a CSC is to make sure it is applied for by you directly and in your company’s name. I've worked with another client who in the process of signing up for a mobile marketing campaign allowed the aggregator to apply for the short code in the aggregators name….only to find when they chose to move their SMS traffic to another aggregator that they were refused.

A CSC is a valuable piece of marketing property, make sure you treat it as such.

If you would like to book some consulting time with me to answer specific questions check out



  1. Dean -- nice overview. Used to work at CTIA, and have seen there's confusion in the marketplace as to how these campaigns should be constructed, and executed.

    Chris Parente

  2. Hi Chris, wow nice of you to comment on this post.

    I was consulting to a company heavily involved in CSC's about 2 years ago and it was amazing the lack of "user friendliness" when it came to placing and implementing SMS campaigns in our USA operations as opposed to the UK and Australian campaigns.

    It's almost like the USA carriers wanted to discourage sms use even with the "csc bump" that came from americon idol (pun)


  3. Dean
    I work at another aggregator, and the whole environment is changing, particularly on the premium side of the fence. Carriers are becoming VERY strict with their own policies and very harsh penalties are being rolled out. VzW, T-Mobile, AT&T and now Sprint are determined to clean up the premium space.
    But the standard world is not escaping either. Discrepancies over "Other charges may apply" and such is meaning standard campaigns are going to have to choose whether to launch on T-Mobile exclusively or ignore that large subscriber base. Interesting times...