Everything You Need to Know About USSD

Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD), sometimes referred to as “Quick Codes” or “Feature codes“, is a communications protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the mobile network operator’s computers. USSD can be used for WAP browsing, prepaid callback service, mobile-money services, location-based content services, menu-based information services, and as part of configuring the phone on the network.

USSD applications run on the network, not on a user’s device. As such, they don’t have to be installed on the user’s phone, which is an advantage for users with feature phones that have limited storage space. USSD apps are instantly available to every subscriber the moment they’re deployed to a network.

USSD messages are up to 182 alphanumeric characters long. Unlike Short Message Service (SMS) messages, USSD messages create a real-time connection during a USSD session. The connection remains open, allowing a two-way exchange of a sequence of data. This makes USSD more responsive than services that use SMS.

How USSD works

Typically, USSD involves a query from a mobile phone user, such as a request for a bank account balance. Once the user sends the request, the USSD gateway forwards it to the user’s USSD application, which response to the request.

The process is then repeated in reverse, i.e., the response goes back to the USSD gateway, which displays the content of that response on the screen of the user’s mobile phone. Generally, the responses, which contain a maximum of 182 alphanumeric characters, are sent in a format that’s easy to display. The user sends and receives data by dialing a specific shortcode usually, five numbers.


How USSD is used

USSD is used for several purposes, including the following:

  • Mobile banking. Unlike banking apps that need internet access and smartphone functionality, USSD banking can work on any mobile device, including feature phones.
  • Network configuration and requests. USSD is used to configure a user’s mobile device on the network. It also provides a menu of service options a user can choose from for such things as buying airtime or requesting account balances.
  • Customer update requests. USSD can integrate with enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems to request updated customer information. This enables better customer service and data accuracy.
  • Marketing surveys. USSD can be used for mobile marketing. For example, organizations can send basic marketing surveys that users can respond to immediately, enabling companies to get customer feedback in real time.
  • Callback services. Service organizations, such as insurance providers and financial services companies, can use USSD to determine customers’ interests by enabling them to request callbacks after they present their offers.
  • Order confirmations. Food delivery providers can use USSD to enable two-way communication between customers placing orders and the vendors to alert customers when their orders are on the way.
  • Coupons and vouchers. Retailers can use USSD to communicate special offers to customers, as well as send coupons and vouchers.

USSD is sometimes used in conjunction with SMS. The user sends a request to the network via USSD, and the network replies with an acknowledgment of receipt:

“Thank you, your message is being processed. A message will be sent to your phone.”

Subsequently, one or more mobile terminated SMS messages communicate the status and/or results of the initial request. In such cases, SMS is used to “push” a reply or updates to the handset when the network is ready to send them. In contrast, USSD is used for command-and-control only.

USSD payments

USSD payment processing is performed by sending a text message to a service provider. When the service provider receives the text message, it either charges the amount of the purchase to an online payment system or adds the amount to the user’s phone bill.

Benefits of USSD for Business

With numerous USSD applications comes numerous advantages of using USSD a marketing tool. Here are some significant benefits of USSD:

  1. USSD does not require internet connection or data to work. It allows free of charge roaming.
  2. USSD practically works on all GSM standard mobile phones. Since no high tech phone is required, you are guaranteed to reach more people as not everyone owns a smart phone.
  3. USSD can work across all mobile networks. It only needs a connection to the GSM network to work as it’s not mobile or SIM based.
  4. USSD is highly interactive; User can quickly see response on their phone screens and can make more requests hence allowing faster two-way communication and interaction that is seven times faster than SMS.
  5. It is highly customizable, making it ideal for all your business needs.
  6. USSD is extremely cost effective for businesses to implement and run, it is also free for subscribers to use.
  7. USSD content can be personalized and responses can be obtained in real time.
  8. It is user friendly and can be used by anyone.
  9. USSD service is easily accessible anytime and anywhere.
  10. USSD offers a possibility for portal structure building that can be simplified for users to easily remember.

Based on the above advantages it is evident that USSD remains a relevant and important technology. At Zigatext, we provide USSD solutions according to your business requirements. To find out more about our USSD solutions, please contact us on 08093159330 or 07026788205 or pop by our office and we will help you take your business to new heights.

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