Saturday 26 July 2008

USSD: Old is Gold

Even though there are so many new technologies available for creating mobile applications, there is still a market for the old fashioned USSD applications.

USSD or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data is a capability of all GSM phones. It is generally associated with real-time or instant messaging type phone services. There is no store-and-forward capability that is typical of 'normal' short messages (in other words, an SMSC is not present in the processing path). Response times for interactive USSD-based services are generally quicker than those used for SMS.

A sample USSD service is the bill status service accessed by dialing *141# or similar numbers in between * and #. USSD applications can be thought of as an IVRS (Interactive Voice Response System) with out voice.

Some of the USSD applications that we use regularly are:
  • Alerts About special offers, services and news
  • Balance enquiry
  • Changing tariff plan and subscribing to various VAS services.
  • Recharging using prepaid vouchers

Other than these many interesting services can be given using the USSD platform. One such service is the “call back” service. The user will use USSD to send a USSD message to his friend asking him to call back. This is done by pressing the USSD service number and the number to which the alert needs to be send. Assume 14 is the service number and you want me to call you back. Press this on your mobile and press dial.


I will receive a message, “XXXXXXXXXX wants you to call him back” where XXXXXXXXXX will be your number.

Barclays has started a Hello Money service in India. This is a USSD based service and quick demo can be viewed here.

A similar service is being tested in Kenya called Commerce 360. Commerce 360 will link banks, utility services and other companies with the mobile phone owners. Other than Kenya, Cellulant which is one and half year old has subsidiaries in Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria in which it intends take the Commerce 360 mobile banking solution if it succeeds in the Kenyan market.

Finally if interested here is a youtube video from late early 2000's showing USSD in practice.


Vivek Khandelwal said...

thanx for the great insight..
I also came across the platform build on this same technology from Barclays called Hello Money..
The product is really great.
But what i m wondering is over the security of such platforms .
They are indeed speedy but i just read that i might not be secure on a larger scale.
And can it be used as a platform to replace day to day Card system?

Abhishek said...

Truely USSD is the ancient and available on all handset technology. And yeah in India Barclays has used it for mbanking. And as far its security is concerned, it is definately more secure than sms or gprs which can be traced easily. And with specific path for the transactions, banking with USSD is safer too.

Unknown said...

Is it possible to have USSD application that can collect information from users (say input texts, in several pages with next buttons ) and then send them back to a server for processing.If not what would be the better way of implementing such an APP so that all kind of mobile phones
( smart and feature(unsmart) ) can access it.

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

Do we need to have a server for the callback. Because i have a project which will help People to call another number with the same syntax as *14*XXXXXXX#. Do we need to have an USSD platform on other server ?