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.

Kidspotter Case Study

Kidspotter - txtNation

Country: US, Spain

Service Type: Two-way, Non-Premium SMS (Short Code), Bulk SMS

Product: txtNation Gateway SMS API Connectivity

Two-Way SMS

Kidspotter required a partner that provided a robust SMS Gateway, that could facilitate Mobile Messaging for their core services. After extensive research and testing, they chose txtNation.

Course of Action

txtNation are enabling KidSpotter to allow parents to register via SMS to tie the phone in with their revolutionary wrist device. If a child is lost then parents can simply send a text message to the txtNation powered SMS Short-Code which instantly alerts them or the venue.

Added to this innovative offering, is an extra security mechanism where a boundary alert via SMS is sent to the parent when the child leaves the area. KidSpotter locating is achieved by children simply wearing a small, lightweight watch like device.


So far this solution in collaboration with txtNation anchoring the SMS Messaging has been deployed in major theme parks operated by industry leaders, including SeaWorld Entertainments and Parques Reunidos.

Andrew Dunne, Director of KidSpotter says “The partnership with txtNation into our platform is very important as SMS communication is the tool that allows the parent to locate the Spotter being worn by the child through their phone. When choosing a partner, it was vital for us to work with a company with a global reach and have direct connectivity with multiple operators and txtNation very much fits that bill.”

For more information on this service or to contact txtNation about other similar Case Studies, please visit our contact page.

Texttaxi Case Study


Country: UK

Service Type: Two-way, Non-Premium SMS (Short Code), Bulk SMS

Product: txtNation Gateway SMS API Connectivity

Two-Way SMS

txtNation was approached by Texttaxi who needed a messaging solution for their new venture in aiding people to find a taxi quickly using their mobile handset. txtNation was the natural answer for their needs.

Course of Action

Texttaxi allows people to text the word ‘TAXI’ and the name of their town to a shortcode. In return, they get a message back listing taxi firms and contact numbers in their area, pulling the information from a database.  Travel arrangements can be made with little fuss.


This service is also available online and will give users a directory of local taxi firms. This service has been a boon to natives and tourists alike who need to make travel arrangements quickly and easily. Texttaxi discovered a new way to generate revenue seamlessly because of the flexibility of the txtNation platform and the professionalism and market-leading knowledge of txtNation.

For more information on this service or to contact txtNation about other similar Case Studies, please visit our contact page.

NHS Case Study

Mobile Marketing - NHS

Country: UK

Service Type: Two-way, Non-Premium SMS (Short Code)

Product: mFUSION; Mobile Marketing and Campaigns

Downloadable: Casestudy_NHS.pdf


Mobile services provider txtNation and the National Health Service have teamed up to provide an SMS service that allows the public to obtain information with sexual health issues. Advice can be sent instantly to any mobile phone from trained NHS experts thanks to the campaign that txtNation have set up.

Course of action

[Service Deployed: Information Messages, Bulk SMS] The mobile user texts ‘NHS’ to a short code and a WAP link will be sent to their mobile phone which has the answers to questions about sex, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), contraception and provides information about where you can get help in your area. The text NHS Mobile Marketing based campaign is completely confidential and because customers can look at it on their mobile phone, the service can be initiated whenever and wherever.


txtNation are providing the services for this campaign which is enabling everyone easy access to the website. Along with the information that will be displayed, the mobile user also has the chance to make an appointment within their local doctor area if necessary. With over one million users, the service has surpsassed all expectations. Accessing the website and using the services provided by txtNation will be charged at the standard network rate.


For more information on Mobile Marketing or to contact txtNation about other similar Case Studies, please visit our contact page.

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?


Castrol Oil Case Study

Castrol Oil Logo

Country: UK, Ireland

Service Type: Two-way, Non-Premium SMS (Short Code)

Product: txtNation Gateway SMS API Connectivity

Two-Way SMS

Castrol, in association with a partner, commissioned txtNation to provide their mobile two-way interactive SMS services. Text: OIL to 60999 in both the UK and Ireland markets.

The service is currently advertised across all major petrol stations across the UK and Ireland, encouraging people to check their oil levels.


To be uploaded shortly.


For more information on this service or to contact txtNation about other similar Case Studies, please visit our contact page.

To ensure quality on your Bulk SMS campaigns, you need to be sure the messages get sent via an Bulk SMS Gateway that is reliable and is cost effective, right?

Well, yes your right on these points, but how do you measure reliability and how do you know if your ‘future’ Bulk SMS messages will arrive on the handset?

No interconnects for your Bulk SMS Gateway?

When choosing an SMS Gateway, you need to be sure that they have direct routes into the mobile networks. Over the course of the last year, mobile networks worldwide are working on ensuring Bulk SMS providers messages do not come from off-shore routes and are always ‘terminated and sent’ from their network. There are some mobile networks that have even gone as far as to cut off this outside connection, meaning to get your message through, the SMS needs to be routed via the mobile operators network ‘only’.

Are the days of using low quality, cheap off-shore Bulk SMS service providers delivering to hundreds of markets coming to an end?

Over time I think that Bulk SMS service providers will need to connect to SMS gateways or aggregators that have the relationships direct!

Obviously not every service provider can get a mobile ‘direct’ connection like us (we don’t expect that!, besides they can use our gateway for this), so they must make sure when choosing an SMS Aggregator to handle their Bulk SMS messaging that they look for this is in place.

Bulk SMS Gateway – Quality first!

At txtNation, we are connected to mobile operators to facilitate Bulk SMS in many markets around the world. This makes it simple to route and terminate messages on the mobile network.

Every day we advise clients on the impact of using these other options as it’s become more of an integral part of the process of speaking with clients on delivering ‘quality’ Bulk SMS options.

Don’t be surprised if more of these off-shore routes are closed down as time goes on and the focus goes back to where it should be – reliable, quality messaging throughput via an SMS Aggregator!

Read more on using txtNation as your Bulk SMS 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)

Bulk SMS Provider pricing

Have you noticed that when you get a quote from a Bulk SMS provider that it can fluctuate for the same country?

And that they claim to offer the lowest price available and they provide the most reliability?

Here is the reality on what is really happening behind the scenes.

Companies like txtNation are a local SMS Gateway operating ‘locally’ in all of our markets, meaning we are compliant with the local regulators and have direct connections with the mobile networks.

You also have the wrong option – connecting to an off shore SMS Gateway where you are sending from international routes, which means your message may not reach your destination! This is a very important distinction as this may result in your SMS marketing campaign’s success or failure.

Bulk SMS Provider Case Examples

Let run over a couple of examples when using a Bulk SMS Provider:

In the first option, when you send an message it goes to the Bulk SMS Gateway in say usually in under 10 seconds, with 99.9% reliability of delivery on the handset – almost instantly.

If you go via an international routing option to get a cheaper rate (and its cheaper for a reason!) your SMS message gets routed off shore, then maybe via one or two more hops and finally comes back to a local gateway, then back to the phone. This whole process can take up to 10 minutes and in most cases has a 70%-80% delivery rate, meaning a large proportion of users don’t even get the message!

Bulk SMS Providers – Why don’t users get your message?

If using off shore routes with your Bulk SMS Provider, the delivery rates will be very low due to:

– Mobile networks like O2 and Vodafone for example, consider overseas Bulk SMS a form of spam and block the messages.
– As your message is hoping all over the word, it’s more likely to get lost!

This is why we always tell our clients that you may have a cheaper source elsewhere, but check with them how they are doing this, as not sending from a local SMS gateway like txtNation, will lead you with low delivery rates, low response rates (if a two-way campaign) and paying more in the long run.

Further Reading:
See our previous post on choosing a Bulk SMS Provider.
Read more on using txtNation as your Bulk SMS Provider.