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Guest Post: The True Value of USSD proposition for emerging economies


Today’s guest post has been contributed by Fabien Delanaud, General Manager for the Sub Data Division of Myriad Group.  Fabien explains the true value of the USSD for mobile operators across the world, particularly in emerging economies.

Our thanks to Fabien.


USSD stands for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and it is a standard used on all GSM networks to provide important services to mobile network subscribers. From basic phones to smartphones, without the need for expensive mobile data access, USSD messages travel over GSM signalling channels and is used to query information and trigger services. USSD is menu-driven, it is more interactive than SMS. USSD messages create a real-time connection during a session and allow a two-way exchange of a sequence of data.

USSD simplicity lies in people dialling a short code on their phone, such as #123# to launch the interactive menu, making it user friendly, even for those unfamiliar with mobile technology. Submenus typically include self-care services, balance enquiries and credit top-up. Other options include subscribing to news and entertainment such as games, or even voting. USSD is the number one communication channel in many emerging countries between the mobile network operator and the users, as it is efficient and much cheaper than alternatives such as calls to interactive voice response services and customer centres.

USSD is important within the emerging economies as it is accessible from any mobile phone. While smartphones are becoming more affordable, the total cost of ownership is still out of reach for many. GSMA estimates that the second and third hand market of feature phone will remain strong for the next three to five years. Furthermore, as it does not require access to mobile data, it is available in rural areas where 2G networks are still dominant. While 3G and 4G networks deployments are accelerating, in areas such as Sub Saharan Africa, by 2016 seven out of ten connections will still take place on 2G.

The mobile industry is a key contributor to the development of emerging markets and USSD plays a key role in sectors such as education, where outreach learning is widened, and Mobile Agriculture, through which rural communities and small-hold farmers are empowered by accessing valuable information, such as weather forecast and crop prices. Another important sector is healthcare, an underdeveloped sector in most emerging economies, where mHealth is now playing an important role by giving users access to healthcare and health-related information, particularly important in hard-to-reach or rural populations. MHealth is also improving the ability to diagnose and track diseases and expand access to ongoing medical education and training for health workers within emerging economies.

In addition to the above, Mobile Money continues to be a strategic sector for USSD deployment, GSMA have listed 265 live deployments across Africa, Asia and Latin America, offering a unique opportunity to the 2.5 billion people who are ‘unbanked’. Mobile Money lets everyone with access to a mobile phone, convert cash to and from electronic value (“e-money”), and use mobile money to perform transfers or make payments. USSD is the most commonly offered interface for this service, as it is safe and simple to use.

The USSD value doesn’t stop there. In an age dominated by social media, millions of feature phone users access these platforms to connect with family and friends, as well as the vast pool of knowledge available through them, regardless of their phone, geographic location, subscription or connection.

Besides the limited number of characters (182 characters, more than SMS or Twitter), it is a proven technology available everywhere. USSD is a cost-effective, secure and quick service that opens up plenty of opportunities for industries and users alike.


Fabien DelanaudIMG_1244 is the General Manager for the Sub Data Division at Myriad Group. He has 20 years of experience supporting Mobile Operators worldwide, prior to Myriad Fabien worked at Acision, as VP of Services for Europe and Russia, and before that he was Vice President of Operation at Mavenir. Fabien studied at Ecole nationale supérieure des Télécommunications de Bretagne, where he achieved an MSc in Signal Processing & Telecoms.

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