What’s the difference between P2P and A2P messaging?

Person-to-Person (P2P) messaging is generally described as the exchange of text messages between end users, usually characterized as low-volume and two-way communications. Evolving from purely consumer communication, P2P text messages are becoming more common between enterprises and users, such as on-demand application communications, anonymous dating applications, SMS on virtual numbers like Google Voice, etc. P2P SMS is usually enabled by mobile phone numbers (also known as “long codes” or “long numbers”). In the United States, P2P messaging is enabled by 10-digit North American Numbering Plan (NANP) telephone numbers. Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging is an SMS message sent from an application — usually a web app — to a subscriber in the form of customer alerts, verification codes and marketing messages. In most cases, A2P messaging provides one-way SMS to recipients, who are not expected to reply. However, more A2P messages are allowing two-way customer conversations that fall under A2P, which can be enabled by Short Codes or Long Codes. While most countries allow for both phone number types with A2P, in North America the differentiation is more acute and restrictions apply.

A2P messaging in North America is generally enabled by short codes, but there are different phone numbers being used due to the limitations of common short codes (CSCs).

International A2P SMS can be subject to local country regulations and restrictions to avoid abuse and spam — such as GDPR. These restrictions may have delivery implications that enterprises should be aware of, such as message filtering or delayed message delivery.

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