Lesson 3

Shortcodes & Virtual Numbers

SMS can be sent and received through numerous number types. Learn how they work.
Lesson 3
Shortcodes & Virtual Numbers

3.1 Shortcodes vs Virtual Numbers

SMS can be sent and received through several number types. Here’s how you can find the best number for your business.


Australian shortcodes 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 survey services.

You can place your shortcode number (Eg. 13456) and an SMS keyword (Eg. Dine) into an email, website, or any other marketing medium to generate leads and interactions.

Australian shortcodes, however, come with high costs and compliance requirements, which has led to the popularity of free to text Virtual Mobile Numbers as the shortcode alternative.

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

Virtual Mobile Numbers (VMN)

Virtual Mobile Numbers (VMNs), or longcodes, can receive SMS messages, but can’t directly receive phone calls. You can, however, forward calls to another number of your choice.

While you can purchase VMNs directly from carriers, the easiest and cheapest place to get VMNs is through a Web SMS Service or an SMS API Services provider like Burst SMS. Generally, VMNs are leased on a monthly basis.

You can also programmatically process text messages received from a virtual number. For example, when a VMN receives a keyword, it can trigger an automated process like automatic responses, message forwarding, and contact management.

3.2 Types & Features

Here are some of the common number types and SMS features that are available for Shortcodes and VMN.

Zero Rate Shortcode or Longcode

A zero rate shortcode or longcode, which is also referred to as an FTEU (Free To End User) number, is a number that is free for subscribers to text to, while the company owning the number pays instead. These types of numbers are not available in Australia at this time.

Gold Numbers

Gold numbers are a variation on a standard number that makes it easier to remember and input. For example, a typical number would look similar to this, 61 467 528 788. A golden number, however, allows for more flexibility, giving a business more memorable or auspicious combinations such as 61 434 333 222.

Vanity Numbers

A vanity number is a number that spells a word using the numeric keypad. You can deliver your message with the vanity word set in the number and when somebody replies. 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 helping recipients identify your business.

1300 Numbers

1300 numbers are ten-digit business numbers that customers can call at local call rates from any fixed line in Australia. It is also possible to send and receive messages via a 1300 number, however, this is not supported by Vodafone which holds 25% of the Australian telecom market. It is also not recommended to use a 1300 number for receiving SMS, but these numbers are popular for businesses with a 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, such as a business name. However, it is typically limited to 11 characters and cannot process replies or opt-outs. Instead, recipients need to reply or opt-out by directly texting a number. Click here to learn more about Sender ID options.

3.3 Premium SMS

Premium SMS refers to the process of charging a mobile subscriber for texting a shortcode. In the past, it was easy to take advantage of this as it only took a single text message to subscribe to a service that billed them automatically.

The ACMA (Australia Communications and Media Authority) stamped out this practice years ago. It now requires a double opt-in and an explanation of what recipients will subscribe too. Premium SMS is still available, but the carrier now takes up to 50% of the revenue that comes across the shortcode.

Lesson 2
SMS Networks & Connection
Lesson 4
A2P SMS Features