Dialogic Blog

A Message for the Future: USSD Is More Important Than You Think

by Tim Moynihan

May 29, 2015 8:11:00 AM


Any conversation around the future of mobile communications eventually comes down to messaging: How Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Message Service (MMS) are replacing voice through services like WhatsApp, how WebRTC and RCS will replace SMS and MMS, etc. And yet fewer of our fellow future forecasters talk about Unstructured Supplementary Services Data (USSD) messaging, despite the fact that USSD may outlive its contemporaries, SMS and MMS.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with USSD, it’s a real-time messaging service that allows mobile phone users to interact directly with their service providers through short codes. When you check the balance on your prepaid card, you’re using USSD. When you transfer money with your phone, in many cases it’s USSD working to make that happen.

Of course, USSD’s anonymity may be due to its similarity to SMS. Many mobile users assume that all text messages emanate from SMS, but USSD is very different from SMS in several important ways, especially in its ability to deliver real-time messaging sessions. USSD is 7X faster than SMS, which is important when you need up-to-the-second information like prepaid account balances or sub-second responses when you’re navigating a multi-menu interface to provision services on your cell phone.

Applications that use USSD are a big part of a service provider’s service portfolio and require a robust application platform to support these services. One such solution is 6D Technologies’ USSD Center, which allows service providers to easily create applications that use USSD for real-time communications. Deployed in service provider networks around the world, 6D Technologies’ USSD Center is designed to support USSD messaging on GSM-based handsets with features that include simple service navigation via short codes, user-friendly navigation, high availability (even while roaming) and interoperability with nearly all GSM handsets.

As with SMS messaging, USSD solutions require unique network elements to handle the flow of messages to and from the network. Service providers that choose the USSD Center platform can easily create these elements using Dialogic products including our Distributed Signaling Interface (DSI) signaling servers, DSI SS7 boards and DSI protocol stacks. Through the Dialogic-6D Technologies partnership, service providers can be assured of tight interoperability between these products, allowing for faster deployment of USSD solutions and lower risk.

With USSD Center and Dialogic DSI products, service providers can begin delivering robust messaging applications to mobile subscribers including:

  • Subscriber self-provisioning
  • Prepaid services
  • Account balance and statement viewing
  • Mobile payment services
  • “Push” notifications from social media applications

With high speed, high reliability and ease of use, the message for mobile service providers is clear: USSD is still an important part of the future.

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