What’s the Difference between Masking and Shortcode SMS Services?

You must have heard about masking and shortcode SMS services, but do you know the difference between them?

As we live in the world of technology, everyone is trying to use new and better ways to reach out to customers. Businesses have realized that one of the most important factors in conveying their message to a large and diverse audience is the use of SMS services. Among the different kinds of SMS services that are available, there are two types of service, namely the masking and the shortcode SMS services, which are different in terms of the special utility they perform as well as possessing a variety of features that make them different from each other.

It is imperative to differentiate between these two services so that one can be in a position to select the service that will help them in the kind of communication that is needed for business purposes. In this article, we will focus on how masking and shortcode SMS services are fundamentally distinct from each other and what applies to their characteristics and applications, strengths, and weaknesses.

What is Masking?

Masking is a form of delivering text messages to clients or users where one hides or conceals the phone number that is being used to post the messages. Shortcode SMS services often use this strategy to conceal the identity of their clients or prohibit spam.

SMS masking works when the sender’s real phone number is replaced by a short code or what is referred to as a virtual number. Usually, it is a number formed by joining several numbers at a go, which is only used to send text messages. So, when the recipient receives the message, it appears as the identity phone number of the person or company that sent the message. Instead of this real identity phone number being displayed, it will be the virtual identity phone number.

Use Case:

Typically used for sending promotional messages, transactional alerts, and notifications where brand recognition is essential. For example, imagine a leading retail chain, “EsyShopping,” wants to send promotional offers to its customers.

Sender: ShopEase

Message: Big Sale Alert! Get up to 50% off on all items at ShopEase this weekend. Visit your nearest store or shop online at www.esyshopping.pk

In this example, customers receiving the SMS will see “EsyShopping” as the sender instead of a random phone number.

Regulations and Compliance:

In Pakistan, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) regulates SMS services. Companies must comply with PTA guidelines to avoid spam and misuse of masking services. Masked SMS must be used responsibly, ensuring recipients have opted-in to receive such messages.

SMS MaskingAdvantages of Masking:

  • Brand Visibility: Recipients immediately recognize the brand, increasing the likelihood of message engagement.
  • Trust: Messages from a known brand are trusted more than those from unknown numbers.
  • Professionalism: Enhances the professional image of the brand.


  • No Two-way Communication: Recipients cannot reply to masked SMS, limiting interaction.
  • Regional Restrictions: Some regions or telecom operators may have restrictions on masking.

Shortcode SMS ServicesShortcode SMS Services:

Shortcodes, also referred to as half phone numbers, operate based on a short numeric digit, which is usually between 5 to 6 digits, basically shorter than an actual phone number. These are employed for purposes that involve bulk messaging and interactive services.

Use Case:

Engaging clients through voting, subscriptions, two-factor authentication (2FA), and marketing communication campaigns.


Suppose there is a Mobile Network Provider known as “PakSar,” which offers the customer the opportunity to participate in a lucky draw by sending an SMS to a specific code number, say ‘7777’.

Sender: 345

Want to try your luck today and be a proud owner of one of PakSar’s fabulous rewards? Join the Lucky Draw! In the category and note field of the SMS type, reply with WIN 345 to stand a chance to win a smartphone.

In this example, the type of recipient interaction can be returned to the shortcode 345, which makes it possible for two-way communication.

Regulations and Compliance:

The PTA is also responsible for licensing all shortcode services that exist in Pakistan. Shortcodes are assigned, and businesses need permission to use them and to follow the rules on the communication being sent, not looking like spam, and the recipients agree to take messages.

Shortcode SMSAdvantages of Shortcode SMS:

  • Easy to Remember: One of the reasons customers can quickly remember shortcodes is that they are catchy and do not require a lot of effort to memorize.
  • Two-way Communication: Permits the posts to include linked services that enable users to reply to messages.
  • High-Volume Capability: Used when large population coverage is desirable, for example, in Cases where many people need to be reached in the shortest time possible.


  • Cost: Shortcode services can also be more costly than most other communication services or even messaging services.
  • Setup Time: Shortcode acquisition and provisioning may be a process that takes time and may need regulatory approval. A shortcode may take some time and may need approval from the regulatory authority.

In a Nutshell:

Masking and shortcode SMS services are equally important in Pakistan, depending on the different business requirements. Shortcode SMS for high interaction and flexibility campaigns, ideal for voting, subscriptions, and custom activities. Whereas masking enhances brand visibility and recognition. These services can only be facilitated and operated subject to PTA regulations to help businesses achieve their goals without negatively impacting society.