What is USSD?

Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is a unique service for GSM networks that allows mobile users to interact with a text-based menu that is displayed on their mobile phones in real-time.

The easiest way to visualize this is to imagine USSD as a series of request- and response messages that look similar to SMS messages:
A mobile user accesses a USSD services, and receives a menu on his/her mobile phone's screen. He/she then selects an options from that menu (or responds some other text), which is then sent back to the service, allowing it to present another, different screen to the user.

However, unlike SMS, USSD is not charged-for per message; the entire exchange of information (showing menus/screens and receiving responses) is treated as a single USSD session, which is evaluated in terms of the session length. It also guarantees real-time response; whereas SMS messages can be delayed by the network, information transferred in a USSD session is delivered right away. In these regards, USSD more closely resembles a phone call than SMS messaging.

USSD is device-independent; it works on all mobile handsets without the need for any prior software configuration, installation or activation. It is also fairly well-known and used in South Africa, where it plays an integral role in e.g. mobile banking.

TMS USSD Gateway

Flash Media Group's TMS platform enables seamless interactive integration between your information systems and millions of mobile phones across all major networks in South Africa via USSD. Using our standards-based, easy-to-use programming API you can develop your own custom USSD-based applications or expand your existing business infrastructure to use USSD. We also offer an online USSD simulator that helps you test your USSD applications without the use of a mobile phone.

Alternatively, feel free to contact us for a full custom-built USSD solution; dependent on your needs, we can build your unique USSD application according to your specifications, and have it up and running in a matter of hours.

USSD diagram

User dials USSD access string, e.g. *120*500#

TMS receives request and communicates with your application, builds menu

Menu is displayed on user's mobile. User can respond directly to content and receive more menus.