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In this article

What is USSD?

USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is a communication protocol used by GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) cellular networks to establish interactive sessions between a mobile device and a service provider’s computer. It enables real-time, two-way communication between the mobile device and the network infrastructure.

Unlike SMS (Short Message Service) that uses store-and-forward technology, USSD allows instant session-based communication. USSD messages are typically short strings of alphanumeric characters that are sent between the mobile device and the network.

USSD is widely used for various interactive services, such as balance inquiries, prepaid top-up, mobile banking, service activations, content downloads, and menu-based applications. It provides a quick and interactive way for users to access services and obtain information directly from the service provider.

USSD sessions are initiated by dialing a specific short code, often starting with “*.” The mobile device sends the USSD request to the network, and the network responds with a USSD message containing the requested information or a menu of options. The user can then respond by selecting an option or entering a response through the mobile device’s keypad.

USSD sessions are typically session-based, meaning that they are initiated and terminated within a single interaction. They do not require the storage or buffering of messages like SMS. USSD messages are generally free of charge or incur minimal costs compared to SMS or voice calls.

USSD is commonly used for a range of interactive mobile services, providing a convenient and real-time means of communication between mobile users and service providers.

What is the difference between USSD and SMS?

USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is a real-time interactive communication technology that allows users to access services by dialing a specific code on their mobile devices, while SMS (Short Message Service) is a text messaging service that enables the exchange of short text messages between mobile devices.

USSD Short Codes

USSD short codes are specific numerical codes that users can dial on their mobile devices to access specific services or information. These codes are typically shorter in length compared to regular phone numbers and are used to initiate USSD sessions for interactive communication.

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