SMS Short Codes

What are short codes?

Short codes are special, very short telephone numbers that can be used to send and receive SMS and MMS messages. Short codes are intended to be easier to read and remember than normal length numbers. In Kenya short codes 5 digits in length such as ‘24222’.

What are short codes used for?

Because short codes are shorter and more memorable than standard mobile or landline telephone numbers, they can be used as a primary business and marketing contact number. However, the most popular use for short codes is in automated services.

Automated services are controlled by software rather than an actual human, and the user interacts with the service by sending short commands to the service via their mobile phone handset, which then reacts accordingly.

E.g. Text ‘WINNER’ to 2 4222to enter the competition!

Because it’s possible to charge the sender at the standard rate, premium rate, or with an additional fee, short code services are often used as a low margin-high volume profit generator.

In addition, short codes:

Can be chosen (depending on availability) for marketing purposes; e.g., 24222-PLOT
Provide transparency and authenticity because it’s easier for the customer to identify fraudulent messages

Dedicated vs. shared short codes

Because the cost of setting up and maintaining a short code can be expensive for smaller businesses, some marketing companies sell access to their SMS short codes for bulk-messaging purposes.

These are called shared short codes. Eg Send name PLOT to 24222.

A dedicated short code is just a short code associated solely with one business and used only for that business’s purposes.

Short codes vs. long codes

There are pros and cons to both short and long codes. Which one is right for you will depend on the size of your business and how you intend to use the service.

Short codes

  • are allowed to send SMS messages at a much faster rate than long codes
    are easier to remember
  • provide a greater array of carrier-based services
  • can be used for billing


  • have a set cost to purchase which can be too high for smaller businesses
  • can’t receive messages from overseas
  • won’t receive voice calls
  • can take a longer time to set up

Long codes

  • have a lower set-up cost
  • can receive voice calls
  • can receive international calls and texts
  • are less restricted by opt-in policies
  • are quick to set up


  • don’t support MMS or picture messaging
  • send SMS messages at a slower rate
  • are more difficult to remember

Find out more about short codes

To learn more about short codes and their suitability for your business, including the cost of setting it all up, contact Us.

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