USSD: everything you have always wanted to know

Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, USSD Push, Premium USSD, USSD shortcodes… what does it all mean? Let’s find out!

What is USSD?

USSD is short for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. It is a menu-based technology that a mobile user can interact with. Typically this is used for product purchases or to answer general enquiries that have set answers. The number (called a USSD Shortcode) that the user dials usually starts with an asterisks and ends with a hashtag.

Are there different types of USSD shortcodes?

Yes: there are three.

  • The standard rate: the end-user pays a standard fee for using it.
  • The premium rate: the end-user pays a premium fee
  • Reversed billed: the end-user can use the code for free

Is USSD the same as SMS?

Not quite, although all mobile phones can receive these messages. Unlike a text message, you can’t store a USSD message on your phone, because USSD is session based. When the session ends, the message disappears. This makes USSD a popular method for sending sensitive info to clients like passwords or pins.

Also, USSD messages can contain 22 characters more than a SMS

Is it fast?

For sure! In fact, it is almost three times faster than SMS. It is also not dependant on things like internet connectivity.

How does a user gain access to a USSD menu?

There are two kinds of USSD messages: Push and Pull. A mobile user accesses a Pull menu by dialling a shortcode, while a Push message is “pushed” onto the user’s phone by the sender (business). Push is usually used for things like sending pins or marketing messages, while Pull gives the customer the opportunity to purchase a product or enquire about a balance.

Can I put a link to my website in the message?

Unfortunately not – the technology doesn’t support the function of a URL.

Who can help me with all this?

Integrat of course! Call us or drop us a mail, we are here to assist with your USSD needs.

Herman Cremer
A seasoned professional with 20 years of experience in digital & mobile solutions and advertising.

 

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