Answering Your Questions About the Recent Business SMS Change

Have you ever received a text message from a source that you didn’t recognize? In this instance, we’re not referring to those marketing messages from brands you’ve interacted and purchased from. Nor does this mean the authentication messages that come after attempting to log into your bank or other secure source. You’ve consented to receive those messages. Here, we’re referring to a growing problem in the United States that you and your customers might be familiar with! Keep reading to learn about the recent Business SMS changes introduced as a result.

According to Truecaller’s 2021 US Spam and Scam Report, the average number of spam texts a person receives per month is 16.9, up from 14.7 in 2020, 10.6 in 2019, and 8.5 in 2018. Not only are these messages simply irritating, but they’re also potentially malicious in nature. The same report found that nearly 60 million Americans lost money to phone scams in 2021, averaging $500 in cost! As experts analyze and contextualize the data, it’s clear there needs to be a solution to these unwanted messages!

Fast forward to late 2021, where Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) such as AT&T and T-Mobile have implemented measures to confirm who is sending messages over their networks and what the nature of those messages are. Working with a third party known as The Campaign Registry, these MNOs are now sanctioning a new standard in SMS (and MMS, meaning messages containing some kind of multimedia) known as a 10-digit long code (or 10DLC). Replacing the legacy, unsanctioned “long-code” SMS standard, 10DLC gives MNOs visibility into the aforementioned who and what. This in turn helps reduce the number of fraudulent messages sent to their end consumers.

AVANT Analytics has put together this guide providing answers to questions you or your customers may be asking.  Read on to explore the information you need to know to stay compliant with these new regulations.

What is The Campaign Registry?

The Campaign Registry (TCR) is a reputation authority that works with MNOs to register brands of Campaign Service Providers (CSPs) in a centralized database. It authenticates those brands with the MNOs so that SMS/MMS services can continue to work as intended.

What is a Campaign Service Provider?

Campaign Service Providers, or CSPs, are vendors that offer business SMS services to customers, called brands. In turn, those brands must have their use cases, commonly referred to as campaigns, registered with TCR. This way, MNOs know who these brands are and what type of messages they want MNOs to deliver to customers.

How does a brand register with TCR?

A CSP must register all of its brands and their campaigns with TCR. This is typically handled via a relatively simple form that the brand receives from its CSP. The form asks for information including brand name, key contact information, its EIN/Tax ID, and stock symbol, if applicable. This process is short and may only take minutes to complete. Some CSPs may also use APIs to register their brands with TCR.

What are the costs to register?

There are one-time costs imposed on the CSP to register themselves with TCR. There are also one-time brand registration fees, in addition to monthly campaign fees. These depend on the volume of messages sent and their purpose. However, the jury is still out on whether these ongoing fees will be passed down to brands from their CSP, and if so, when. CSPs should be relaying this type of information to its brands should any one-time and/or recurring fees apply now or in the future.

What happens if a brand doesn’t register?

Beginning March 1, 2022, MNOs like AT&T and T-Mobile will begin to throttle back the delivery of unregistered brands’ SMS terminating on the AT&T or T-Mobile network. Higher fees per message sent will also be assessed. While the date and time have yet to be determined, we know that unregistered brands will eventually not be able to send SMS/MMS to AT&T and T-Mobile customers. Currently, Verizon and US Cellular will continue to accept such traffic as they merely suggest vs. require registration with TCR. However, they have added higher fees for SMS/MMS terminated on their networks. They may also choose to follow AT&T and T-Mobile’s lead in the future, mandating brand registration with TCR.

What isn’t affected by these changes?

SMS/MMS sent outside the US does not apply. Short-code SMS (messages from 5–7-digit numbers) are also not affected. This is because they must be purchased separately and have their own set of registration requirements. Toll-free numbers (TFNs) also do not need to be registered. Only 10-digit business phone numbers that can send SMS/MMS and make and receive phone calls need to be authenticated with MNOs via registration with TCR. To be clear – consumer-to-consumer conversational messages, such as the ones we send from our personal cell phone plans, will not be subject to these registration requirements.

How does this update apply to one’s ability to send person-to-person (P2P) messages from a UCaaS softphone?

All SMS/MMS sent from a 10-digit business DID are considered to be application-to-person (A2P) messages. This means registration with TCR is mandatory. If your UCaaS provider enables you to send SMS/MMS to another person from your softphone, your brand must be registered. This is because these messages, although conversational in nature, are technically A2P messages.

Though potentially cumbersome and registration costs from CSPs to brands are up in the air, this initiative is well-intentioned. It will crack down on fraudulent messages. In doing so, it enables legitimate companies to send important information to their customers quickly through a medium with a very high read rate. Plus, as consumers, we’ll feel less vulnerable the next time we receive a message from a number we don’t recognize. Whether you’re a Trusted Advisor or a brand concerned about implications, we recommend working with your CSP to find out their registration process, costs, and support structure around this initiative. We also advise consulting with your CSP to ensure compliance with SMS/MMS opt-in/opt-out workflows, and that content is consistent with the new rules surrounding business SMS. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your AVANT Channel Manager for additional information and assistance on this topic or fill out this quick form to get in touch. You can also learn more about this subject by listening to our Technology Insights podcast, where AVANT Engineer and Senior Analyst John Paullin sits down to discuss the recent changes with RingCentral’s Director of Developer Marketing. As your number one resource in all cloud-based technologies, AVANT is here to keep you up to speed and provide superior support every step of the way as you work to stay ahead of the pace of change in technology and power your business forward.