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Short codes, or short numbers, are short digit sequences, significantly shorter than telephone numbers, that are used to address messages in the Multimedia Messaging System (MMS) and short message service (SMS) systems of mobile network operators. In addition to messaging, they may be used in abbreviated dialing.
Short codes are designed to be easier to read and remember than telephone numbers. Short codes are unique to each operator at the technological level. Even so, providers generally have agreements to avoid overlaps. In some countries, such as the United States, some classes of numbers are inter-operator (U.S. inter-operator numbers are called common short codes).
Short codes are widely used for value-added services such as charity donations, mobile services, ordering ringtones, and television program voting. Messages sent to a short code can be billed at a higher rate than a standard SMS and may even subscribe a customer to a recurring monthly service that will be added to the customer's mobile phone bill until the user texts, for example, the word "STOP" to terminate the service.
Short codes and service identifiers (prefix)
Short codes are often associated with automated services. An automated program can handle the response and typically requires the sender to start the message with a command word or prefix. The service then responds to the command appropriately.
In ads or in other printed material where a provider has to provide both a prefix and the short code number, the advertisement will typically follow this format:
- Example 1 - Long version: Text Football to 72404 for latest football news.
- Example 2 - Short version: [email protected]
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Codes are four digits in length and start with 8, like 8xxx. Although the telecom sector in Ethiopia is controlled by the government, short code services are outsourced to the private sector. The short codes are used mostly for fundraising, lottery and polling.