Lesson 3

Shortcodes &
Virtual Numbers

Last Updated: September 2019




Shortcodes vs Virtual Numbers

SMS can be sent and received through numerous number types. Find the best number for your business.


Australian short codes are 6 or 8 digit numbers that can send and receive SMS. They are commonly used for marketing campaigns such as text-to-win promotions, voting, and information services. You can then place your shortcode number (Ex: 13456) and keyword (Ex: Dine) into an email, website, or any other marketing medium to generate leads and interaction.

Australian short codes come with heavy costs and compliance requirements. Historically they have negative connotations due to a history of mobile subscribers getting ripped off by unreliable premium SMS services. This has led to the popularity of free to text VMN’s it their place.

Note: Burst SMS doesn’t offer shortcodes in Australia. You’ll need to contact your carrier for them.

Virtual Numbers (VMN)

Virtual Numbers (VMN) are also referred to as long codes. They are able to receive SMS messages, but not phone calls.

While you can purchase VMN’s directly from carriers, the easiest and cheapest place to get VMN’s is through Web SMS Services or SMS API Services. Virtual numbers are generally charged with a monthly fee.

Messages received via virtual numbers can be processed programatically. eg. Keyword campaigns. When a keyword is received, automated processes can be triggered such as automatic responses and message forwarding.



Types & Features

Here are some of the common number types and SMS features.

Zero Rate Shortcode or Longcode

A zero rate shortcode or long code refers to a number that costs nothing for the subscriber to text, however the company owning the number is billed instead. These type of numbers are not available in Australia at this time. These are also referred to as FTEU (Free To End User) numbers.

Vanity Numbers

A vanity number is a number that spells a word using the numberic keypad. You can actually deliver your message with the vanity word set in the number and then if somebody replies, it is automatically set and replies are processed. For example 61467528778 is equivalent to 614675BURST. If you spell out your business name in your vanity number, it will show up in your sender ID.

1300 Numbers

It is also possible to send and receive messages via a 1300 number, however this is not supported by Vodafone which is approximately 25% of the market, so also does not have wide adoption at this time. Clients like the idea because you can also call the number however it is not recommended for receiving SMS. These numbers are popular for businesses with high customer enquiry volume.

Custom Sender ID

A custom sender ID can be used in some countries in place of a mobile number when delivering an SMS. This can be a business name however is limited to 11 characters and cannot process replies. For more information on sender ID options - click here.




Premium SMS

Premium refers to the process of charging a mobile subscriber for texting a short code. In the past it was easy to take advantage of subscribers as only a single text was required to subscribe to a service that would bill their account automatically. 

The ACMA stamped out this practice years ago now requiring a double opt in explaining exactly what the subscriber is getting themselves into. This process thankfully put a stop to this activity. Premium SMS is still available but as the carrier takes such a large proportion of the revenue (up to 50%) that comes across the short code it is not that popular.

For more information on Australian shortcodes - click here.