Insights & Resources • PUBLISHED 5/6/2020

What is Programmable SMS?

Read this quick guide to find out everything you need to know about programmable SMS and what you can build with it.

By Tony Furnas

Developer making SMS App

Programmable SMS makes it easy for developers to programmatically send and receive text messages on a large scale. Developers can integrate text message services into their software and web-based applications using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, 6 billion SMS messages are sent each day in the US alone. With that, one thing is simple to understand - your customers like texting. It’s a fast and simple way to communicate, and is rapidly becoming the preferred communications channel for consumers. Programmable SMS makes it simple for developers to access this channel, and integrate SMS into their software or applications with relative ease.

Additionally, Programmable SMS allows developers to connect their applications to SMS communication infrastructures, giving them the ability to send and receive text messages over the networks of telecom carriers. This allows developers to build simple or robust SMS capabilities into their apps to increase engagement and improve the overall customer experience.

Back to Basics

There are two different types of text messages as well as two separate types of traffic that these messages can be sent as. There are also different types of numbers that can be used to send text messages.

Knowing the difference between these will help you make the right choice for your intended use case and audience, allowing you to increase deliverability and engagement, while potentially saving you from higher messaging costs.

The difference between SMS and MMS

SMS, or short message service, is the protocol used to send mobile text messages from a person or application. SMS messages can be sent in high volumes and arrive in seconds. According to Mobile Market Watch, SMS messages have an estimated open rate of 98% and an average response time of 90 seconds, so they are a fast, highly effective and low-cost way to engage with your customers.

MMS, or multimedia messaging service, is used to send multimedia messages that can include photos, videos, audio or GIFs. This type of messaging can create a more engaging brand experience. It’s worth keeping in mind that MMS is more costly, but there are some great advantages:

  • MMS has higher customer engagement with a 15% average CTR.
  • MMS increases campaign opt-ins by 20% over SMS.
  • Subscribers are eight times more likely to share MMS content on social networks.
  • You can fit more in an MMS message. While SMS limits messages 160 characters, MMS messages have no limits. This can give you the flexibility to create a more dynamic customer experience.

Comparing A2P and P2P

Application to Person (A2P) and Person to Person (P2P) are the commonly used terms you’ll encounter when looking at business messaging options. We’ll briefly go over the difference between the two and how they can impact your decisions when it comes to SMS.

A2P (Application to Person)P2P (Person to Person)
Messages are sent from a software or web-based application to a person on the other end. A2P messaging is usually used to deliver high-volume automated alerts, notifications or reminders.Messages are commonly sent from one person to another. However, P2P messages can also be sent from apps. Customer support is a good use case, where agents are responding to customer queries.

Text Messaging Capable Numbers

Text messaging has evolved with the changing needs of businesses, as have the types of numbers that can be used for messaging. Traditionally, P2P messages are sent over 10 digit phone numbers, or Long Codes, which are relatively inexpensive and easy to set up though they are limited in the volume that they can send.

So, as P2P usage began to rise, carriers introduced the Short Code number to allow businesses to more easily communicate with their customers using SMS. While short codes are capable of delivering large amounts of messages, they can be rather expensive and the process to get them can sometimes be arduous. They also present a challenge for businesses needing two-way communication, as short codes are limited in this capacity.

The limitations of the short code were short lived as Programmable SMS solutions came to the market. These APIs allowed businesses to build applications that could send messages over long code numbers.

As this type of messaging gained popularity, Toll-Free Numbers with text messaging capabilities were also introduced giving businesses yet another option to choose from when communicating via SMS. These toll-free numbers can also be voice enabled, making them the perfect solution for customer support by giving customers two channels to communicate through using the same number.

Long Codes

Short Codes

  • 5- or 6-digit phone numbers.
  • Must be leased from the Common Short Code Administration.
  • Can reach much higher volumes with short code SMS.
  • Limited to one-way communication.

Toll-Free Numbers

  • Can send a much higher volume than long codes.
  • Supports both Voice and SMS services.
  • Relatively cost effective.
  • Supports two-way communication.
Type of NumberFormatVolumeA2P vs P2PVoice EnabledSetup Time
Long Code10-digit US ex.555-555-55551/secondP2P onlyYesInstant
Short Code5- or 6- digit ex.55555No LimitA2P onlyNoWeeks
Toll-Free10-digit US ex.800-555-5555100's/minuteA2P or P2PYesUp to 48 hours

What is 10DLC?

As A2P and P2P messaging continues to grow, it is now more challenging for carriers to identify good faith actors and malicious senders thus impeding a carriers ability to protect consumers from unwanted messages. Because of this, carriers have decided to create dedicated 10DLC services for businesses to send A2P messages. This both empowers businesses to send the content they desire with greater deliverability while simultaneously giving carriers the ability to identify unwanted messages and agents and block them from the network.

10DLC, or 10 Digit Long Code numbers, have been introduced by termination vendors to support businesses sending more robust SMS campaigns. A 10DLC number is essentially a local long-code phone number that has enough SMS messaging capacity for A2P messaging. With it, businesses will be less limited in the capacity of their previous SMS enabled numbers and can expect to send 5-15 messages per second.

Additionally, since 10DLC numbers have been sanctioned for A2P messaging by termination vendors, SMS messages sent from 10DLC numbers are more likely to be delivered than SMS messages sent from local long code numbers.

An added benefit of 10DLC numbers is that they cost about the same as a standard long-code number. So they’re an accessible alternative for businesses that can’t afford a dedicated short code or that don’t send enough messages to make a dedicated short code cost efficient.

Programmable SMS Use Cases

Your prospects and customers engage with multiple touchpoints and functions across your business from marketing to sales and customer support. By leveraging the immediacy and cost-effectiveness of automated messaging, you can boost sales, improve conversions, increase productivity, enhance engagement and reduce operational costs.

Here are just some of the ways you can integrate triggered messaging to improve customer experiences and realize business benefits.


  • Marketing Campaigns

    • Research shows that prospects who are sent text messages convert at a rate 40% higher than those who aren’t. Send personalized, relevant messages for the best results.
  • Promotional Redemptions

    • SMS coupons have redemption rates 10x higher than printed ones — it’s easy and more convenient than any other channel.
  • Mobile App Promotion

    • When a user visits your website, send them an SMS with an embedded link to download your app. It’ll open up new opportunities to connect and engage with them.

Productivity & Efficiency

  • Appointment Reminders

    • Send automated appointment reminders to improve the customer experience and reduce no-shows.
  • Instant Lead Alerts

    • Instanly conenct sales reps with leads to increase productivity and shorten response times.
  • Account Notifications

    • Trigger timely automated alerts to update customers, resolve issues or confirm changes from bill reminders to password resets and account change confirmations. It’ll also free up your agents for high-value interactions.

Customer Satisfaction

  • Customer Support

    • Over half of consumers say they prefer SMS customer support to any other channel. Engage in two-way text conversations for faster issue resolution and a better customer experience.
  • Conversational AI and Chatbots

    • These allow machines and bots to handle minor customer issues and conversations before a person needs to get involved. With Programmable SMS developers are able to build better customer experiences that deliver realistic interactions and create high-quality conversations.
  • Order and Delivery Alerts

    • Keep your customers in the loop with alerts for orders placed, shipped and delivered.
  • Critical Alerts

    • Get through to customers when it really matters. From fraud activity alerts to canceled flights and business closures, send real-time texts to reliably communicate need-to-know information.

How much does Programmable SMS cost?

As we discussed earlier, costs for Programmable SMS can vary depending on what type of number you’re using to deliver your message. SMS or MMS messages sent over long code, short code, or toll-free numbers will all have different costs associated with them.

Choosing the correct provider is important when adopting SMS for business as it will be the largest factor in determining the cost of messaging. You’ll also want to pay attention to costs associated with sending messages to different countries as well as the volume of messages you are sending.

Additionally, some providers may charge you for inbound messages. If you’re adopting SMS as a two-way communication channel for customer support or chat these additional inbound charges can add up quickly since you won’t be able to control the volume of inbound messages you receive.

As a reference point, here’s a quick comparison of Telnyx pricing vs. Twilio:

To Send SMSTo Receive SMS
Number typeTelnyxTwilio TelnyxTwilio
Local Number$0.0025$0.0075Free$0.0075
Toll-Free Number$0.0055$0.0075$0.0055$0.0075
Short Code$0.0070$0.0075$0.0070$0.0075

It’s important to note that some carriers will charge an additional fee when sending messages with local and short code numbers that may be passed back to you by your chosen provider.

Common Telnyx Programmable SMS Questions

Telnyx is dedicated to helping you create the best experience for your customers, that’s why we designed a Programmable SMS platform that’s easy to use, cost effective and offers you more control to build the messaging app that will help you drive results.

Does Telnyx operate it's own network?

Yes. As a software-driven licensed telecom operator with its own private IP network built on a multi-cloud architecture with a global backbone, Telnyx has the ability to deliver a more direct and secure route for your messages. Connecting directly with all major cloud providers also allows Telnyx to offer unrivaled reliability to ensure you’ll always be able to send SMS or content rich MMS messages across the globe.

Does Telnyx provide reporting and analytics?

From reporting on the health of the numbers you use to send messages, to the deliverability and click-through rates of your messages, Telnyx provides the tools and reporting you need to make changes to your messaging strategy that can help you improve the quality of your customer experience.

What type of support does Telnyx offer?

Your business is always running, so we’re always on. Telnyx provides 24/7 support 365 days a year from our network operating centers in both Chicago and Dublin. Telnyx offers phone, email and live chat support for every customer, free of charge, so you can get the help you need whenever an issue comes up. You can also become part of our Developer Slack Channel and join hundreds of developers for their insights and our support.

How easy is it to integrate with Telnyx?

We’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Our engineers have put the work in to develop quickstart guides and tutorials that allow you to hit the ground running when you’re ready to integrate messaging into your application. Visit our Developers Center for a robust catalog of SDKs in a number of coding languages like Python, Ruby, PHP, Node and .NET to help you programmatically build a powerful SMS communications platform with ease.

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