Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is a Global System for Mobile(GSM) communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application program in the network. Applications may include prepaid roaming or mobile chatting.
USSD – unstructured supplementary service data. It sounds a bit complicated, and can get technical very quickly, but there are two key things to understand. First, when you dial a number that starts with * and ends with #, you are using USSD. Second, USSD is currently the best available communications technology to deliver mobile services to low-income customers.
With the notable exception of M-Pesa in Kenya, the majority of large scale mobile financial services (MFS) deployments in the developing world use USSD as their primary mechanism for communication between customers and their mobile payments platform. These include bKash in Bangladesh; Wing in Cambodia; EasyPaisa in Pakistan; Tigo and M-Pesa in Tanzania and EcoCash in Zimbabwe, to name a few.
Every code that you enter over your phones keypad that contains asterisk (*) or hash (#) characters is an MMI code. MMI stands for Man-Machine-Interface. Even though most of these MMI codes look pretty similar, they fall into different groups with completely different actions. Some are just used locally on the device, some are sent to the SIM, others are sent to the network.
Frequently Asked Questions
Increase Revenues by making it easy for prepaid users to re-charge accounts and generate higher call volumes.
Reduce Operating Costs by providing a low cost customer care alternative. It is much cheaper than SMS for two way transactions.
Global Access – USSD works worldwide on almost every handset with familiar connection options.
Intuitive menu based access options provide you with interactive real-time communication.
Increase Loyalty – Convenience and user experience with USSD speeds up to seven times faster than SMS.
Each Mobile Network Operator(MNO) have their own integration APIs to their USSD Gateways.
What you will be required to do is implement an API on your server that the MNO will be forwarding USSD dials from users and you respond with a message that you need displayed on the users mobile phone.
Some MNOs will require you to Implement an API that accepts GET, POST, SOAP or XML RPC.
For the purposes of learning,we will be using Africa's Talking Gateway for you to understand the whole scenario as you come up with your own working USSD application.
Let us first make it clear to you that USSD applications aren't like desktop apps which you can develop in any programming platform. Its complex and require involvement of both developer and Telecom service provider. Involvement of the Service provider part is tedious because practically they won't allow you to play with their equipment. So either...
You must have access to their Gateway or tie up with them , to deploy a real working USSD application.
I believe by now you can relate to the technology. Now I want to jump straight and explain the magic that happens for this to be able to take place. So basically what happens is this:
User dials the provided USSD code.
The request is forwarded to the mobile service provider.
The provider routes the request through a gateway to the machine hosting the application.
The application process the requests it receives and sends back feedback.
The feedback is processed by the provider and sent back to the mobile phone.
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This course assumes that you have some knowledge in programming.
To develop for USSD their are key things you need to understand.
Some of them are basic programming skills which include conditional statements, Switch statements etc.
The reason is because we are going to be doing a lot of string manipulation to extract data and interpret the request sent to us by the USSD gateway.
One thing you should note is that the USSD gateways speak different languages i.e send strings with different naming.
Unlike banking apps and online banking alternatives that require internet access and smart phone functionality, USSD banking can work on any mobile device including feature phones at a minimal cost.
This technology gives a portion of the population the ability to be part of a society where they can make use of a non-traditional banking system without the fear of being exploited.
USSD solutions are synonymous with flash like messages, as USSD is able to generate flash like messages that pop up on the screen that are not essentially stored on the mobile phone as such, leading to the user having to make the most for a particular message when the have access to it during a USSD Session.
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