Mobile Marketing Insights

Toll-Free Texting: A Guide to Toll-Free SMS Numbers

Learn more about what toll-free texting is and what types of companies are considered a good fit for its use

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

When it comes to sending timely messages and reaching consumers, the choice a business makes — and the numbers they use to reach people — can impact its brand, reputation, and campaign success.

For certain companies — particularly small businesses — a toll-free number can provide them with:

  • The option to send and receive text messages with consumers as a form of communication.
  • An easily identifiable phone number that consumers can learn to recognize and trust.
  • A more cost-effective option than SMS short codes.

What Is Toll-Free Texting?

Toll-free texting is a text messaging option for organizations to enable 8XX numbers that allow text messaging over: 800, 833, 888, 877, 866, 855, and 844. This includes being able to text enable your 800 number for U.S. and Canadian mobile numbers.

On May 15, 2022, carriers began to require businesses to complete a sender verification as part of the toll-free provisioning and approval process. This new requirement is another way for the carriers to have visibility into what messages are being sent, allowing them to maintain a cleaner ecosystem and ensure every user provides proper consent. Prior to this requirement, spam was prevalent, and the carriers are regaining control through this sender verification process.

What Are the Benefits of Toll-Free Texting?

In the right situations, toll-free texting has some advantages to offer businesses that want to send A2P SMS messages or notifications, whether they’re one-time or recurring texts.

It can streamline marketing campaigns.

Because toll-free numbers allow companies to enable voice, SMS, and MMS all on the same number (i.e. use the same number to text consumers that is used to call them), they create a more seamless customer experience across communication platforms.

It can increase credibility.

Using a toll-free number can help consumers identify who the messages are coming from and learn to recognize the brand’s number, making the communication feel more personal. 

It’s a more cost-effective way to connect.

Compared to sending text messages on short codes, toll-free texting can be a cost-efficient choice for organizations. It costs less per month than a short code while achieving the same outcome: reaching the right people at the right time via text message. 

What Are the Limitations of Toll-Free Texting?

While toll-free texting works well in certain situations and for certain types of businesses, it isn’t the answer to every mobile messaging need. Compared with other options, it has some limitations that are important to understand.

Slower delivery speed.

Compared to SMS short codes, this means that toll-free numbers come with less reliability and slower speed. For businesses with a sizeable, growing volume of SMS subscribers toll-free texting may not be the best option. 

Long messages are not supported.

When sending a text message using a toll-free number, brevity is necessary. If a text message is more than 160 characters then the text will arrive as two separate messages on the consumer’s mobile device (or more, depending on how many characters are used).

How to Get Text-Enabled Toll-Free Numbers

Using a toll-free number to send a text message is more complex than simply picking up the phone and sending an SMS. In order to be approved to send messages the company must first:

  1. Purchase a toll-free number through a Responsible Organization (RespOrg).
  2. Get the purchased toll-free number, complete the letter of authorization from their SMS aggregator, and complete the sender verification form.
  3. Aggregators submit the request for review and approval, and then notify the company when their program has been approved and the number has been provisioned.

Toll-free numbers are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis by RespOrgs and they have access to a toll-free database that contains information regarding the status of all toll-free numbers.

Is It Necessary for Businesses to Do Toll-Free Verification?

Yes. Carriers now require businesses to complete a sender verification as part of the toll-free provisioning and approval process. This new requirement is another way for the carriers to have visibility into what messages are being sent, allowing them to maintain a cleaner ecosystem and ensure every user provides proper consent. 

How Vibes Can Help

For organizations in which a toll-free number is the right fit, then the right partner can help ensure their toll-free texting campaigns are compliant, engaging, and successful.

By being one of only four Tier 1 aggregators in the United States, Vibes can rapidly scale to help businesses meet increased message volumes and greater throughput, ensuring ample, reliable capacity and speed of messaging on all codes no matter what.

Contact Vibes today to learn more about our SMS aggregation services and how we help businesses bring their ideal uses for SMS messaging to life.

Toll-Free Texting FAQs: What You Need to Know

Here are helpful answers to some of those most commonly asked questions about toll-free texting for a brand.

What is the difference between toll-free numbers and short codes?

Short codes are five- or six-digit numbers used for SMS and MMS messaging, allowing brands to have two-way text message communication with their consumers via a recognizable sender ID that arrives on the consumer’s handset. Short codes are the gold standard for brand recognition and reliability. 

A toll-free number is a text-enabled 8XX number that can be used for SMS messages as well as voice calls. This includes being able to text enable an 800 number for U.S. and Canadian mobile numbers.

Since toll-free numbers are more cost-effective but have many more limits when it comes to scale, reliability and speed, most companies using this type of sender ID are smaller businesses and mom-and-pop shops. Smaller businesses tend to opt for toll-free numbers since they are more transactional based.

What is the difference between toll-free numbers and 10-digit long codes (or 10DLCs)?

A 10DLC is a 10-digit number that can be used for SMS messages as well as voice calls. A 10DLC looks like a standard phone number, and it appears that way to the recipient when they receive an SMS message.

What is the expected reliability and speed for toll-free texting?

Toll-free numbers have less reliability and slower speed when compared to short codes.

Can I use my existing toll-free number for sending text messages?

Yes, it’s possible to text-enable an existing toll-free number vs. register for a new one.

Toll-Free Texting: The Bottom Line

When looking to launch, grow, or optimize a mobile program, it is vital to strategically pick what sender ID to use before sending text messages to consumers.

Toll-free texting can be a good fit for certain organizations, so assessing factors like message volume, message type, and budget is an important first step to help determine what the best path forward is for a brand.

Contact with Vibes today to learn more about what sender ID type makes the most sense for your business and your ideal uses for SMS messaging.

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
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