What is a VLN (Virtual long number)?

A Virtual Long Number (VLN) is a 12-digit mobile number used by businesses to receive both SMS and MMS messages and voice calls. 

VLNs can be used on a country level and internationally via roaming (unlike Short Code numbers), allowing businesses and institutions to build SMS interactions with end users across national borders.

Messages sent to a virtual long number can be received and processed by different business applications, including campaign management systems, which can use these messages to trigger further interactions with the sender.

How do VLNs work?

VLNs allow SMS messages and voice calls to be routed via the Internet rather than by conventional telephone and cellular infrastructure. This means that it is far cheaper as there is no requirement for additional hardware installation and ongoing maintenance costs.

Additionally, the VLN is not associated with a specific telephone device, and it can be routed to a different device in real-time –from an office PC during the day to a mobile phone after hours.

Who uses virtual long numbers?

Virtual long numbers are used by a wide range of businesses and organizations, including:

  • eCommerce companies: can create dedicated customer service VLNs for online stores to provide better customer support and address customer inquiries worldwide.
  • Travel and hospitality companies: can use virtual long numbers to create dedicated booking and support numbers for hotels, airlines, and other travel providers.
  • Financial institutions: can create dedicated customer service numbers and verification codes for online banking and other financial services to protect customers’ sensitive information.
  • Market research companies: VLNs can be used to collect consumer data through SMS surveys and polls, providing valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences.
  • Healthcare providers: can use VLNs to create dedicated appointment reminders and patient support numbers for hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare providers.
  • Non-profit organizations: Virtual long numbers can be used to collect donations, recruit volunteers, and spread awareness about their cause.

Benefits of using VLNs based on your business type

Business typeBenefits of using VLNs
eCommerceImproved customer support, global reach
Travel and hospitalityEfficient booking and support, multilingual communication
Financial institutionsEnhanced security, customer verification
Market researchAccurate data collection, global reach
HealthcareConvenient appointment reminders and booking, patient support 
Non-profit organizationsIncreased donations, volunteer recruitment, awareness 

Virtual long number use cases

VLNs are not tied to specific physical devices and can be routed to different endpoints, such as web servers or mobile applications. This flexibility makes VLNs ideal for a variety of use cases, including:

  • SMS and voice messaging: VLNs can be used to receive and send SMS and voice messages, enabling businesses to communicate with customers and clients directly and conveniently.
  • Customer service: To provide better customer service and improve customer satisfaction, businesses can use VLNs to create dedicated customer service numbers to handle inquiries, complaints, and support requests.
  • Marketing and promotions: During campaigns, VLNscan be used to send targeted SMS and voice messages to customers and prospects, promoting products, services, and special offers to reach a wider audience and generate more leads.
  • Authentication and verification: Sending two-factor authentication (2FA) over VLNs can help businesses add an extra layer of security to their online services.

VLN benefits

The key benefits of using virtual long numbers are:

  • Costs: VLNs are typically more affordable than traditional SMS, as they do not require the same level of infrastructure and maintenance.
  • Global reach: VLNs can be used in any country, meaning businesses can communicate with customers and clients worldwide.
  • Scalability: VLNs can be easily scaled up or down to meet your business needs.
  • Flexibility: VLNs can be routed to different endpoints, such as web servers or mobile applications.

VLN vs short code: What is the difference?

Here’s a short overview of the key differences between virtual long numbers and short codes:

  • Length – VLN numbers are usually 10 to 15 digits, while short codes are 5 to 6 digits long.
  • Functionality – VLNs can be used for voice, text, and video calls. Short codes are used primarily for text messaging.
  • Uniqueness – Short codes can be shared among multiple users, while VLNs are unique to a user or organization.
  • Cost – when compared to short codes, VLNs are considered both cheaper and quicker to provision.
  • International use – VLNs can be used internationally, which is critical for global businesses that run international marketing campaigns. Short codes can only be used within the country that they have been leased in.
  • Voice support – VLNs natively support voice (anyone globally can ring a VLN) while voice is an expensive extra with short codes.
  • Availability – VLNs can be easily obtained from mobile messaging providers with SS7 access and can be retained on a long-term basis, while short codes can only be leased, usually for periods of less than a year, from mobile network operators.
  • Premium messaging – This is only available with short codes and is not an option with VLNs.

Short codes are often associated with automation, while VLNs are viewed as more realistic and engaging from the recipients’ point of view.

Users are more likely to engage with virtual long numbers as their length resembles standard phone numbers and appear more credible and personalized.

Best use cases for VLNs and short codes based on your business type

Business typeVLNs use casesShort codes use cases
eCommerceDedicated customer service number, marketing campaignsSMS contests, promotional messages 
Travel and hospitalityBooking and support numbers, multilingual communicationSMS promotions, loyalty programs 
Financial institutionsDedicated customer service numbers, verification codes SMS alerts, transaction notifications 
Market researchSurveys and polls SMS voting, feedback campaigns 
HealthcareAppointment reminders, patient support SMS appointment confirmations, prescription refills 
Non-profit organizationsDonations, volunteer recruitment, awareness campaigns SMS fundraising, event invitations 


Jan 31st, 2024
5 min read

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