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The state of play in North American A2P

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The Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging market is changing in North America, with new features on offer, new behaviours and an evolving ecosystem and spam environment. The introduction of Ten Digit Long Code (10DLC) has brought a number of benefits, but some challenges still remain. Simeon Coney explains

When brands and enterprises are looking to communicate with customers over mobile messaging in the US there are a few options. The first is using Short Code services, originated by Carriers. This is a fully sanctioned product that can be used to send A2P messaging.

However, there is limited availability, it is expensive, and unsuitable for certain scenarios. The second option is using Long Codes, which are personal phone numbers and not the ideal way of sending A2P messaging, and content sent in this way is deemed as being unsanctioned by US carriers. A third option is Text Enabled Toll free, which is supported and sanctioned by carriers, but managed by third party organisations and not directly by the Carriers themselves.

There has been a growing shift to 10DLC (Ten Digit Long Code), which are now becoming fully supported and sanctioned to carry A2P content. These appear like a normal telephone number that may already be in your address book from having previously engaged with a business with a phone call.

There is a great brand benefit to using 10DLC for businesses, as they have existing voice identities with enhanced consumer trust and brand recognition. Another consideration is that if a business needs to identify itself to its users from a regional perspective, you can have a specific area code number. Meanwhile, there is also better throughput for good campaigns / trusted sources using 10DLC. Before its introduction it wasn’t possible to differentiate between what was a consumer or individual vs. an application or business cell phone number.

Best practices for A2P messaging

Better messaging is the responsibility of everyone in the chain, and a good data point is sender knowledge starting with Campaign Registration which provides oversight and accountability of the campaign originator.

The consequences of uncontrolled / unmanaged A2P carried in P2P channels can impact how brands communicate with customers, resulting in inconsistencies in reputation and risk management all the way through the sending chain. Understanding the message sender and type throughout the chain is essential, so everyone can play their appropriate part and handle the traffic accordingly.

From the registry perspective, an A2P campaign consists of a brand and a use case, delivered by a Campaign Service Provider (CSP). CSPs that represent their brands put transparent information into the registry, and the brand is validated and verified. The registration gives transparency to the Carriers to give back to the brands and CSPs that improve quality and predictability of delivery. The creation of a shared database of intelligence enables every party in the chain to visualise and understand a campaign from start to finish.

This map is important to identify where things are working and not working from a campaign delivery perspective.

Unwanted messages and Spam can generate negative effects to all participants in the delivery chain. The brands are affected, as are messaging and marketing aggregators, and the terminating Carriers, for allowing spam and unwanted messages to reach their customers’ phones. Brands, customers, and the communications channel used for the conversation need to be protected.

To ensure more secure messaging, it is vital to be knowledgeable on what type of threats are live. Spam comes in different shapes and forms, with some being more recurrent than others. Some of the most persistent active SMS spam that we have seen in recent times in the network includes bulk sending without consent, harassment and social engineering, unauthorised transfer of consent, leveraging recognised brands & services, snowshoe, identity sharing, a wide variety of URL abuse (disposable URLs, country TLD & class C abuse, page pre-rendering techniques & brand association abuse), phishing & spear-phishing and, lastly, malware generated account take-over fraud.

With 10DLC, instead of just penalising bad traffic, it is now possible to start incentivising good messaging behaviour by being able to identify and reward properly executed A2P campaigns.

The future of A2P messaging

There is an urgent wave of formalisation of best practices in messaging sweeping across the world in response to the growing prevalence of malevolent activity and spam. Industry initiatives on A2P are at the forefront of this movement, by harmonising concepts of consent and choice as well as the opportunity for all those in the messaging ecosystem to earn clean reputations and improve sending rates.

The ability to track and associate good behaviours with an identity and reward those with good sending practices is a central part of this. The result is a virtuous cycle whereby expanded business insights provide a clearer view of the ecosystem and the identities, content, and behaviours of senders. This will enable new revenue and charging models for messaging in the future, which could open gates to new possibilities to make A2P messaging practices even better.

Author

Simeon Coney, Chief Strategy Office, AdaptiveMobile Security – an Enea Company

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