Key Challenges when Commercialising USSD-based Services

USSD technology has experienced a renaissance with the recent sharp rise of mobile money initiatives worldwide. From 2009 to 2014, the number of mobile money initiatives has grown an astonishing 670%. Out of the 255 currently active mobile money initiatives, 86% of them are USSD driven (Source: Mobile Money State of the Industry 2014, GSMA).

USSD is seeing great success among mobile users and MNOs for the same reason: it’s an interactive mobile service that is easy on resources, does not require mobile data connectivity or smartphones, yet provides fairly complex and comprehensive application access.

With MNOs opening their USSD gateways to 3rd party service providers, the service usage has expanded and moved from exclusively mobile money services, to mobile banking, marketing, logistics, and many other segments. On the other hand, there are still challenges enterprises are faced with in trying to shape and launch interactive USSD-based mobile services.

Reaching all subscribers on the country level

The main challenge is often technical – connecting to all the mobile operators in a single country, so as to be able to provide USSD-based services to the entire subscriber base. Not all operators offer USSD connectivity and services to their subscribers. Most often, the cause is the fact that the operators don’t have the prerequisite, a USSD gateway platform that would enable seamless interaction between the end users and enterprises.

In this case it is crucial to have a partner that can satisfy both sides, MNOs with a USSD platform, and enterprises with user-friendly tools for integration and performance.

Different pricing structures

Different MNOs in a single country market will often use different pricing for USSD services. Some operators charge per sessions, some per request, and some per time unit. All those price combination makes it very hard to keep track of billing and all the invoices and at the end of the month. A standardized pricing structure for USSD service offered by a reliable partner greatly simplifies financial administration, making it much easier and less time consuming for the staff of the enterprise client.

Technical integration with MNOs

When performing technical integration with the MNOs, enterprises need to go through different integration types. Some MNOs offer integration over SMPP or HTTP connection, some expose XML APIs, some REST/JSON, and some SOAP. All these integration types often consume time, which influences time to market of the service. The solution for that is a service provider with established connections with all MNOs in a single market. Integration will be done much more quickly, and the total costs will be much lower than going directly to mobile operators.

Read more about USSD-based services for enterprises and mobile operators and learn more about the USSD questionnaire.

May 5th, 2015
2 min read