TFNs, 10DLC, DSCs, A2P, opt-in, long codes, short codes…

There’s a lot of jargon we use around business text messaging. Especially with our friends in the US and Canada, or those sending to North America.

We’ve put together a glossary to help you get up to speed with the lingo, with a few bonus frequently asked questions:

  1. Why should my business use an SMS application?
    (Or rather, why can’t I just use my business cell phone?)
  2. Do I need a dedicated number?
  3. Should my business use TFN, 10DLC or DSC?

Let’s dive in.

Business Texting: A Glossary

Business Texting Glossary held by a lady

10DLC: 10 Digit Long Code

10 digit long code is a standard phone number in the US. 10DLC can be used for sending personal messages on handsets and for business messaging through SMS gateways (A2P messaging). 10DLC is one of the three ways you can send business SMS in the US.
See also: TFN and DSC.

A2P: Application to Peer

When you fire off an SMS from your cell phone, this is what’s known as peer-to-peer messaging (P2P). Messages are being transferred from peer to peer (or person to person).

A2P, or application-to-peer, is where the message was sent from an application instead of a person. A2P messaging is designed for business use as it can accommodate massive message volumes and send them faster. Plus there are many more benefits of using an SMS gateway to send business texts.
See also: P2P.

DSC: Dedicated Short Code

Businesses can choose to send messages from their own unique short code. Short codes are sender IDs with 5-6 digits rather than the full 10 digits of a long code.

It can be costly to set up and maintain in the US (a cost that carriers set and pass on to SMS gateway providers like us), but it is the best option for sending high volume of messages and can send them much faster than 10DLC or TFN.

Plus short codes are easier for your customers to remember, making it easier to get customers to text-in and fantastic for branding.
See also: 10DLC and TFN.

Long Code

As opposed to: Short Code.
These are 10 digit phone numbers used for sending and receiving text messages. Your regular mobile phone number is an example of a long code.

For example:

+1 (555) 123 4567

In the US, they include a 3-digit area code, followed by 3 digits (and often preceded by a +1 country code). For business sending, we offer two different types of long codes in the US – 10 digit long code (10DLC) or a toll free number (TFN).

Marketing SMS

Also known as: Promotional Texts or SMS Advertising.
As opposed to: Transactional SMS.

Business texts can be classified as either promotional in nature (marketing SMS), or messages containing user-specific information required to use your product/service effectively (transactional messages).

Marketing or promotional text messages are sent by businesses to encourage customers to perform an action. This action is typically to make a sale or convert, but also includes engage in social media, provide data or feedback, etc. Marketing texts can be sent as a SMS blast for one-off sends (for example, seasonal marketing campaigns), or automated based on user behaviour (including cart abandonment messages).

The distinction between transactional and promotional SMS is important because marketing messages are more regulated. Most importantly, you must obtain consent from your recipients to send them marketing messages.
See related: Opt-In/Opt-Out.


When someone consents to receiving messages from your business, this is known as opting-in. To send marketing messages you must obtain explicit consent from the recipient via an opt-in.

You can place invitations to opt in on any of your owned marketing assets, to grow your marketing contact list. Here are some ideas to build your opt-in contact list.
See also: Opt-Out.


When a recipient decides that they do not want to receive marketing messages they can choose to withdraw consent. This is known as opting-out.

In almost every country, as a minimum, you are required to:

  • To honour all requests to opt-out – ie. remove that contact from your recipient list before sending more messages.
  • Include a visible way to opt out of marketing messages on all promotional communications.

It’s simply common sense – if someone does not want to hear from your brand, don’t force the relationship (perhaps they have already filled the need your product would fill, or have had a change of situation). It won’t help with your brand reputation.

If that’s not bad enough, many jurisdictions are dishing out hefty fines for not complying with spam and data protection laws.

Man sending SMS through A2P messaging platform

Short Code

As opposed to: Long Code

These are 5-6 digit numbers used to send and receive business messages. Short codes tend to be a lot more memorable for users than long codes, requiring fewer digits to remember, making it easier for customers to initiate contact with a business.

To send business SMS from a short code, you will need to set up a dedicated short code (DSC), as most mobile carriers no longer support the use of shared short codes.

TFN: Toll-Free Number

Toll-free numbers are a type of long code phone number. They were initially created to enable consumers to call from a landline to a business without incurring the cost of overseas calls. Generally they include an area code of 800, 822, 833, 844, 855, 866, 877 or 880–889.

Since their introduction, many TFNs have become text enabled, allowing people to send SMS messages to these numbers. When signing up to send text messages to the US or Canada, ClickSend customers are assigned a TFN to start sending immediately. However, as send volumes increase, businesses may choose to upgrade to a 10 digit long code or dedicated short code.

See also: 10DLC, DSC.

Transactional SMS

As opposed to: marketing/promotional SMS.

Transactional SMS are essential, non-promotional text messages sent by businesses to relay information about a transaction. Common examples include order confirmations, shipping updates, welcome messages and appointment alerts.

Transactional messages are often triggered by customer behaviour and so are highly personalised. They’re often automated through integrations with other applications, like customer relationship management systems (CRMs).

Getting Started with Business SMS: Commonly Asked Questions

1. Why Should My Business Use an SMS Application?

We hear this often in the form of “why can’t I use my handset to send customers messages?”

Fair question.

We wrote more thoroughly about why using an SMS gateway is far superior to your handset. Here’s a recap of your handset limitations:

  • Difficult to scale – your handset cannot cope with high volume messaging.
  • Fair Use Policies in “unlimited” texting plans may impose caps on your send volume.
  • There’s no way to add personalisation – unless you manually send each message individually! 😱
  • Group messages tend to have a maximum of 10 or 20 recipients and are not private.
  • Difficult to delegate messaging to staff (one handset).

A2P SMS gateways are built to handle high volume sending; it can cope with hundreds of thousands of messages sent in text message blasts. Access lightning fast business messaging, with extra benefits:

✅ Compliance features: we handle your opt-outs!
✅ Hundreds of integration partners so you can automate your messaging.
✅ Free advice on marketing and messaging best practices.
✅ Multi-user access: create sub-accounts and delegate messaging to staff members.
✅ All messages and replies are in one, easy to access dashboard.

Plus here at ClickSend, get full access to our product suite. SMS, MMS, text to speech voice calls, transactional email, fax, letters and postcards all from our user friendly dashboard.

2. Do I Need a Dedicated Number?

It depends.

Each country has different options; when you send texts it will either come from a number used only by your business (dedicated number) or part of a pool used by several businesses (shared number).

One of the issues with shared numbers is that if one bad apple using the shared number sends a spammy message, the networks could shut down messaging capability for all those using the same number. For this reason, shared short codes were discontinued in the US earlier this year.

With shared numbers, recipients may get confused to receive messages from different businesses from the same sender number.

Example of transactional SMS from The Ironic and marketing text from Ben’s Bites sent using the same shared virtual number.
Example of transactional SMS from The Ironic and marketing text from Ben’s Bites sent using the same shared virtual number.

So if you are sending critical messages or high volumes, it pays to set up your own number. It also means that you can use this virtual number in your owned assets and advertising media; eg. website, social media profiles, in print, outside, radio, TV.

Tip: if using your dedicated number in offline advertising, you may want to invest in a dedicated short code.

3. Should My Business Use TFN, 10DLC or DSC?

This also depends on how you intend to send messages – there are pros and cons to each option.

Toll-Free Number (TFN): very affordable and easiest to set up. With TFN you can start sending immediately, but it’s not designed to handle high volume sending.

10 Digit Long Code (10DLC): still quite affordable, but takes a couple of days to set up. You will need to register your brand and use case (ie. show a sample of the text message wording you intend to send). But once set up, it’s fantastic for higher volume sends and marketing blasts.

Dedicated Short Code (DSC): if you want to send SMS at scale, you should be looking into getting a DSC. DSCs have a higher cost and take a few weeks to set up, but the throughput and performance is unparalleled. Better yet, with 5-6 digits to remember, they’re great for branding.

Here at ClickSend, our Customer Success team members are invested in supporting your SMS campaigns for maximum success.

Book a demo to discuss how best we can set up SMS for your business or sign up for your free trial now.