What is Unstructured Supplementary Service Data?

People working in the field of mobile are very familiar with the term Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) but it often leaves clientele scratching their heads when a mobile aggregation service provider offers it as a product. What is it exactly?

USSD is a GSM technology that allows for a two way exchange of data in real time. It is almost like a live telephone conversation without speaking or using words.

The user has to dial a number sequence from his mobile phone in order to access certain mobile services or applications. We are all familiar with sending a “please call me” or buying airtime/ vouchers via your phone – this is done through Unstructured Supplementary Service Data.

The number you dial usually starts with an asterisk or hash character followed by a sequence of numbers and ends with an asterisk or hash character again. The phone recognises the number and will use the USSD bearer instead of a voice call. In other words, you are directed to an infrastructure instead

mobile service provision.



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