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Use of long codes in US has consequences, says OpenMarket exec

Jay Emmet, general manager of Amdocs? OpenMarket, is cautioning heavily against the use of long codes in the United States.

The Seattle-based executive at one of the leading aggregators stressed that long codes are not currently authorized by U.S. carriers for marketer text messaging to consumers. While the practice is common in some markets overseas, the use of long codes comes with major risks in the U.S.

?With long codes or grey routes, an unscrupulous content provider can send unsolicited SMS to a mobile subscriber, using unauthorized carrier access,? Mr. Emmet said.

In this interview, Mr. Emmet sheds insight on the consequences of using long codes, how marketers must follow ethical SMS marketing practice, Apple's stake in messaging and the role of wireless carriers in the evolving mobile ecosystem. Please read on.

Where do you stand on the long code debate?
While long codes can offer useful capabilities, particularly in markets outside of the U.S., currently they are not authorized by U.S. carriers.

Any organization that sends an unsolicited text message to a consumer is in violation of the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM Act).

Many marketing and messaging companies are currently in litigation for allegedly violating this Act.

With that in mind and in the interest of our clients, we require our customers and partners to use short codes because they offer a trusted, high-capacity capability that is both sanctioned and monitored to ensure consumer protection and privacy.

Unauthorized carrier network access is also becoming a big issue, right?
Yes, the increased use of long codes and other grey routes poses new challenges and risks to carriers and all participants in the mobile ecosystem.

One of the key concerns is establishing and maintaining consumer protection.

Carriers are held responsible by subscribers for unauthorized communication to their devices and have a legal obligation to minimize spam or unsolicited messaging.

With long codes or grey routes, an unscrupulous content provider can send unsolicited SMS to a mobile subscriber, using unauthorized carrier access.

Legitimate companies should not expose themselves to grey market risk. 

Why aren?t short codes gaining more steam? What needs to be done to get the ball rolling with brand registrations and usage?
The industry is seeing quarter-over-quarter growth in short code messaging volumes, but this growth is hampered compared to more open forms of communication available to brands. 

Short codes are subject to commercial and financial constraints that don?t apply to other forms of the marketing mix particularly in the age of Facebook and Twitter.

Despite some shortcomings, mobile messaging and common short codes are key to driving user engagement. 

The mobile industry must work together to make it easier for brands to use mobile and close the perceived gap between other forms of marketing.

Are wireless carriers aware how Apple and its ilk are developing parallel messaging platforms that bypass traditional SMS and MMS?
The wireless carriers are absolutely aware of these competitive messaging capabilities, even though most of these innovative messaging platforms are focused on person-to-person messaging.

Brands demand ubiquity and market coverage. This is the fundamental reason for aggregators and carriers to work together to make it even easier for brands to use SMS and MMS. We don?t see that changing in the short term.

Where is OpenMarket focusing its energies this year?
We?re seeing deeper interest in the mobile channel from the world?s largest companies, and a continued shift away from mobile as a singular marketing tool.

It?s becoming an integrated part of a company?s overall business operations.

We are also seeing demand for multichannel messaging. Where previously an online retailer sent emails to alert customers of a package delivery, they?re now using SMS, push notifications to an application or even MMS.  

Mobile payments seems to be getting more traction this year. Do the carriers have skin in the game?
Absolutely, they do.

Fundamentally, carriers have a billing relationship with all their subscribers, and this is an incredibly powerful position.

Carriers have a number of initiatives going on in this area, looking at mobile wallets and also increasingly using carrier billing to allow their subscribers to purchase goods or services. 

We see virtual goods and in-app billing as huge drivers for carrier billing, but we also see some incredibly interesting opportunities in such areas as parking and ticketing.  

What?s the biggest issue mobile marketers can expect to be blindsided with this year?
Until they are officially sanctioned by U.S. carriers, we advise mobile marketers to think very carefully before using long codes or other grey markets for their campaigns. 

Ultimately to avoid a nasty surprise, we strongly advise that mobile marketers or brands use SMS short codes for mobile campaigns.