SMS,MMS & USSD Mobile Messaging Advertising

Mobile messaging is massive. Mobile messaging is the most used non-­‐voice channel in the world. In 2012, there were over 14.7 trillion messages sent worldwide,and this is expected to nearly double to 28.2 trillion up to 2017 a colossal amount in anyone’s book. The 3 Mobile messaging categories introduced here are SMS, MMS, USSD . Each category differs in that the messages are delivered to mobile phones via different technical formats.

Text messages, for example, contain only words and symbols, whereas MMS messages contain a text message, as well as a picture or video, which is delivered as an attachment to the text message

Brands and advertisers can use SMS to

  • Reach customers who do not have a smartphone
  • Reach consumers they have not engaged with recently (customer retention)
  • Acquire customers who did not even know you existed
  • Monetize interactions through incentives
  • Add another channel to the communication preferences list as more people prefer SMS as a contact mode
  • Drive sales through coupons and deals

Companies are turning to common short code mobile marketing today because it delivers personal, immediate and actionable content to a target audience that has opted to receive messages. A Common Short Code (CSC) is a 5 or 6 digit carrier-approved number that mobile phone subscribers use to send SMS messages in order to receive information, promotions, alerts and branded content directly to their device. This interaction proves mutually beneficial to consumers and brands by establishing a two-way communication channel with considerably flexible data-delivery capabilities. The CSC gateway enables wireless subscribers to access mobile applications and participate in voting and polling, customer feedback, database enrollment,news and offer alerts, contests, surveys, chat, games, direct marketing and mobile commerce. Short code campaigns are rapidly growing in popularity.


Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is the multimedia successor of SMS . Sending an MMS is via a GPRS network. An MMS can contain text , sound , a picture or a piece of video or a combination of these types.

MMS messages are delivered in a different way from SMS. The first step is for the sending device to encode the multimedia content in a fashion similar to sending aMIME message (MIME content formats are defined in the MMS Message Encapsulation specification). The message is then forwarded to the carrier’s MMS store and forward server, known as the MMSC (Multimedia Messaging Service Centre). If the receiver is on a carrier different from the sender, then the MMSC acts as a relay, and forwards the message to the MMSC of the recipient’s carrier using the internet.[4]

Once the recipient’s MMSC has received a message, it first determines whether the receiver’s handset is “MMS capable”, that it supports the standards for receiving MMS. If so, the content is extracted and sent to a temporary storage server with an HTTP front-end. An SMS “control message” containing the URL of the content is then sent to the recipient’s handset to trigger the receiver’s WAP browser to open and receive the content from the embedded URL. Several other messages are exchanged to indicate status of the delivery attempt.[5] Before delivering content, some MMSCs also include a conversion service that will attempt to modify the multimedia content into a format suitable for the receiver. This is known as “content adaptation”.

If the receiver’s handset is not MMS capable, the message is usually delivered to a web-based service from where the content can be viewed from a normal internet browser. The URL for the content is usually sent to the receiver’s phone in a normal text message. This behaviour is usually known as a “legacy experience” since content can still be received by a phone number, even if the phone itself does not support MMS.

The method for determining whether a handset is MMS capable is not specified by the standards. A database is usually maintained by the operator, and in it eachmobile phone number is marked as being associated with a legacy handset or not. This method is unreliable, however, because customers can independently change their handsets, and many of these databases are not updated dynamically.

MMS does not utilize operator-maintained “data” plans to distribute multimedia content, which are only used if the operator clicks links inside the message.

E-mail and web-based gateways to the MMS system are common. On the reception side, the content servers can typically receive service requests both from WAP and normal HTTP browsers, so delivery via the web is simple. For sending from external sources to handsets, most carriers allow a MIME encoded message to be sent to the receiver’s phone number using a special e-mail address combining the recipient’s public phone number and a special domain name, which is typically carrier-specific. (source:


If you’ve ever used an airtime recharge PIN, performed a balance enquiry or sent a ‘Please Call Me’ message, then you’ve used a USSD service! Created specifically for standard GSM devices, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (or USSD) messages are transferred directly over the network signalling channels. This is unlike MMS messaging, for instance, which is transferred via a wireless data connection. USSD applications are accessed by user request, and make use of short codes or text strings to trigger certain services in a session-based communication. These codes could perform a function, request a snippet of information, or lead the user into a series of textual menus which are navigated through the corresponding menu numbers. A USSD gateway is the automated system that bridges the gap between mobile
handsets and IP based systems and finally connects to the portal which retrieves the information requested.A typical USSD request looks like this:*100# (dialled from the phone) The asterisk (*) and hash (#) codes are much like simple programming codes, signifying the beginning and end of the request. Asterisks can also be used to separate the codes into multiple requests to access the different tiers of information. Think of it as calling an automated helpdesk. You would normally wait for the recording to present the options, and then respond with the number selection to continue to the next menu. It’s the same via USSD.

Typical Applications:

  • Balance Check: The user can send a Process Supplementary Service request (PSSR) to the home zone which will forward this, under guidance from the Gateway, to the correct application. Then, the application sends an acknowledgement via USSD Gateway, HLR etc. known as PSSR response back to the user.Balance Notification at the end of charged call can also be given using Unstructured Supplementary Service Notify (USSN) message.
  • Voice Chat: Using the same process as above, one can use voice chat. This is highly useful when VoIP enabled phones are not available.
  • Advertising: The application can advertise their product using USSD which is less invasive than telemarketing.
  • Roaming: This has huge advantages while roaming. This is because USSD services are well available in roaming networks and all the USSD messages are directed towards the subscriber’s Home Network itself, thus, same set of services that are available in home network can be given in visited network too, giving subscribers a Virtual Home Environment (VHE).

Apart from PSSR and USSN, there is another method called Unstructured Supplementary Service Request (USSR) message that initiates a session by USSD Gateway to a Mobile User. This message can be used in conjunction with USSR initiated session to provide session based services like Menu services through USSD. Also, in the earlier phases of MAP (Mobile Application Part), PSSR message was called PSSD (PSS Data).

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