Our USSD Gateway

Over the last several years we have been hard at work behind the scenes, working with mobile networks, partners and technology enablers to bring USSD into our mobile messaging options; joining our ever popular carrier grade Bulk SMS and HLR Lookup Gateway connections.

This introduction occurred because of two main reasons: i) demand to use this tech from our clients and ii) we realise the future potential of this powerful ‘session’ based messaging technology.

USSD seems to have been forgotten among the more obvious technologies, namely SMS, which is a shame considering its design and build is perfect for many service options, from mobile payments through to interactive chat.

Overlooking USSD?

USSD is a communication protocol that works across the mobile GSM networks.

It is a real-time messaging option similar to SMS, where it sends the message (MT) utilising the signaling channel. The most notable difference from SMS which uses a ‘store and forward’ message flow is that with USSD it works on a ‘session’ based connection.

Advantages of USSD (V’s SMS)

USSD has many key advantages as a mobile messaging option:

1. USSD provides cost effective messaging worldwide.
2. USSD allows messages to take place during a call.
3. USSD does not incur charges for roaming.
4. USSD works with interactive menus as well as notifications (nSMS).
5. USSD is much faster then other messaging options, as it is session based – always having an active connection.
6. USSD is not mobile software or SIM based. i.e. it can run without both. Just requiring a connection to the the GSM network.

There are two types of options:

  • Push

Network pushed USSD service in which the network (MSC, VLR and / or HLR) sends the USSD message toward mobile subscriber.

  • Pull

Mobile Subscriber requested USSD with user sending a USSD message towards the Gateway. i.e. using USSD Short Codes. e.g. *100

New Types of Services using USSD

USSD is gaining more popularity for interactive menu driven services like mobile banking, roaming with prepaid service, callback services, mobile chat, software upgrades, etc.

Alongside the above, here is a list of some popular active service types using USSD:

‘Push’ services (i.e. one way nSMS – Notifications)

  • Voting and polling
  • Announcements

‘Pull’ based services like informational services (i.e. request using USSD Shortcodes)

  • News, Sports updates
  • Currency updates
  • Ticket Purchases being a very common use of USSD.
  • Call centres using USSD (replacing IVR (Voice Support)).

Disadvantages of using USSD for your Messaging

  • USSD can resource heavy; meaning increased load on the channels between the MSC and the HLR. However, these resources are more efficiently utilised in USSD than to SMS which means increased traffic on the channels between the MSCs and the HLR.
  • No delivery reports are provided with USSD unlike with SMS.


The future of USSD Messaging?
New innovative services are starting to gain popularity across social networking, USSD gaming and gambling and other forms of mobile entertainment.

USSD has large growth potential especially across the link between mobile billing; that is to make a mobile transaction when in a USSD session, quickly and securely.

Understanding the limits of IVR (voice) and SMS is important. USSD offers so much to look at with its speed and flexibility, it is not to be overlooked anymore.

You can start to use this innovative messaging offering by connecting to our USSD Gateway.

Common questions we often get asked are within the common overlap and synergy between HLR Lookup and Bulk SMS, including how to make Bulk SMS messaging more successful.

The Home Location Register (HLR) is the database of mobile subscribers for the mobile network in question.  It also keeps track of the user’s location on the mobile network, (or another mobile network if ‘roaming’ - Virtual Location Register) so incoming calls and messages can be routed through the correct tower.

With high number portability rates worldwide, it has become difficult to deliver precise SMS to these mobile numbers, because SMS messages are sent on the first network and it fails delivery. This has lead to the use of HLR Lookup for Bulk SMS, something that at txtNation we are very informative about.


HLR Lookup allows you to identify numbers ported to another network (MNP) and any invalid numbers.
Where number portability is high in some markets across the world, HLR increases in value even further.


Virtual Location Register
The Virtual Location Register is a database which contains information about all the mobile subscribers which are currently located in the proximity of the MSC. A new record in the VLR is served when a new mobile subscriber is detected in the MSC’s serving area. txtNation have recently added the VLR component to our HLR API options (see below).

Read more on our Virtual Location Register options.


HLR Lookup is available for all operators globally via the txtNation gateway. Our HLR platform delivers results rapidly and accurately through HTTP and XML API. As time has gone, there is more mobile portability customers than ever before and as a direct result HLR Lookup has now become a fundamental tool for Bulk SMS messaging.

Take a look at our HLR API on our Wiki.

Recorded: Thursday November 8th 3pm GMT (30 mins)
Webcast: HLR Lookup and its uses in Mobile Billing and Messaging.

Rezza Abzadeh, Head of Support discuses how you can use HLR to benefit your business and applications.



i) Overview of HLR; Enabling better Billing and Messaging.
ii) The two types of HLR txtNation provide; MNP and RTLU.
iii) Choosing between our API and our Platform – what is available?


HLR lookup can save save thousands for businesses that look to use this information to then deliver Premium SMS or Bulk SMS messages.

How is this possible when using HLR Lookup?

HLR will identify if the phone is on or off and also on what network the customer is contracted to, meaning your message will get ‘through’ once you know this information in advance.

It is very common that companies throw money away when running SMS Push and Bulk SMS Campaigns, mainly due to the lack of correct information in the first place!

Some figures show that some companies lose as much as a whopping 30% from mobile numbers being incorrect, due to for example the customer having previously moved their mobile networks provider.

That’s 30% of a business’ cost that can be used to elsewhere – i.e. a better data source!

Using HLR Lookup takes away all of the guesswork out of SMS messaging and with this it also increases significantly the delivery rate to ‘real’ mobile numbers, that are in service.

txtNation provides companies both an API and an online system that can be used to validate and check a mobile number, in real time.

Costs of Number Lookup

Performing a lookup on a mobile number can cost under a quarter of the cost of sending an SMS message. It also can be used to check if the data lists are valid, therefore saving significant marketing costs when it comes to sending the SMS messages later on. This can also be said to be true for Premium SMS, as by a business knowing the mobile number and network, you can best identify the route in which to later charge the mobile user for a service that is ‘paid’ for. e.g. PSMS Web Opt-In.

Read more on using txtNation as your Mobile Number Lookup Provider.

Author: Michael Whelan

Why Mobile Number Portability Lookup (MNP Lookup)?

Using HLR Lookup is now more essential than ever for your mobile marketing success due to more and more customers moving mobile networks, sometimes multiple times.

- Mobile Number Portability (MNP) has been released in over 50 countries and growing.
- More than 250 million mobile numbers have already ported.
- Over 2 billion users are able to port at any time.

Whilst Mobile Number Portability benefits mobile customers – giving them the freedom to move provider, however it causes untold headaches for service providers who need to realise the mobile network in order to bill or deliver messaging services to the ‘exact’ operator.

Mobile Number Portability Lookup importance for marketing

Without a Mobile Number Portability Lookup, the service provider not be aware of the mobile network the subscriber belongs to and this can be costly!

Using HLR Lookup you can reduce costs by removing bad mobile numbers and identity those that have ported to another network and more importantly, for your overall marketing success – removing the wasted effort and costs when sending SMS messages for your campaign!

The txtNation Gateway allows our clients to find the mobile operator a mobile subscriber belongs to using our HLR Lookup API connectivity, quickly and easily.

Recent Press:
txtNation launches new HLR Lookup platform

Related Topics:
Overview of txtNation’s HLR and Mobile Number Portability Lookup (MNP Lookup)
HLR Lookup – Number Portability Lookup (Network Services – IMSI Lookup)