Global USSD Blog

Messenger App Companies Cost Billions And It Is Bad For Mobile Operators

by Nikita Tekutiev on July 29, 2015


According to Head of Flurry Simon Khalaf presentation, WhatsApp user base is as large as the number of subscribers of the largest telecom operator in the world – China Mobile. Facebook Messenger audience is bigger than the population of the US. User base of Snapchat exceeds it too and Line audience is larger than Russia’s population.

WhatsApp users worldwide sent 30 billion messages per day. For comparison, the global number of transmitted SMS – 20 billion per day.

These client base figures and its involvement in the interaction with the application – make advertisers drool and evaluate messengers higher and higher, and positions of telecom operators, that despite their efforts continue to be a “dumb pipe” are becoming less confident.

The most damage is done in revenue loss, particularly in the messaging space. In a recent study by Mobilesquared, 80% of MNOs cite this as their most pressing concern. One third of mobile operators have a 10% decline in revenue.

The pain can be felt from words some MNOs officials use when speaking about OTT services. Acting President of Azercell Vahid Mursaliyev said at a press conference that mobile operators in Azerbaijan have become more exposed to theft of international voice traffic in recent years.

To protect their market some operators move from words to deeds. Popular service of free messages and calls Viber can be banned in South Korea as a result of a positive decision by the court on patent lawsuit from SK Telecom, one of the largest national mobile operators. TechCrunch points out that a possible ban of the popular messenger in Korea is half the problem. Judgment in favor of the operator could set a precedent, the consequences of which will be felt soon by other similar messaging applications. One of them, Kakao talk facing direct danger – the application is installed on 95% of smartphones in South Korea. Mobile operators have been having claims to it for a long time as Kakao talk takes away a large portion of  voice and SMS market. At the beginning of their work in the market, mobile operators were trying to “strangle Kakao Talk», but later accepted its existence.

Lawsuits and prohibiting policy might be a way for some operators to deal with the problem. However, they are much better alternatives based on introducing competitive products that can easily rival OTT products. Stay tuned for more info on that in the next posts.

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Nikita TekutievMessenger App Companies Cost Billions And It Is Bad For Mobile Operators

Why USSD Is The Best Alternative Technology For Mobile Banking

by Nikita Tekutiev on July 14, 2015

USSD banking is a service that allows managing your bank account on the mobile device with the help of simple queries. The advantage of this service is convenience, mobility, and accessibility. A user can understand the benefits of the technology when there is no data access to the Internet. In such circumstances, you cannot use online banking or mobile banking applications on a smartphone in order to know the balance and manage your accounts. Even more, USSD doesn’t require a smartphone at all, and can work on any mobile devices, even feature phones.

SMS banking is an alternative technology that can be used without data, but a significant disadvantage of it is difficulty of memorizing patterns. In addition, with a negative balance a subscriber neither have access to the Internet, nor the ability to send SMS. This is where USSD comes in. You can even access USSD service with negative balance while roaming. USSD also has better user experience than SMS as technology is session based and response time from the service is also immediate.

To activate USSD banking service you need to have your registered mobile phone number in the bank. After entering your debit/credit card number and setting password you have full access to your accounts and operations. For transactions through the service a user has to enter a standard request like *111# and follow the instructions step by step. Not only you can not only check balance through USSD service, but also top up airtime of any mobile phone number, make payments for services, block or unblock credit cards, and get a detailed list of transactions.

We implemented similar services with top banks in Russia, and banks’ customers find it a useful tool for using abroad, as USSD is free for the end user. Even people with smartphones, who have a smartphone application of a bank they are using, prefer to use USSD service as it loads faster and doesn’t require stable data connection. It is also a great way for smartphone users to top up their airtime when they reach a negative balance and actually need a data connection. Alfa Bank, the largest private bank in Russia, surveyed their clients and 66% said they were willing to pay a fee for such service. USSD application not only can be a competitive advantage over other banks’ services, but also can act as a source of additional revenue.

Contact us here for more information. Stay tuned.

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Nikita TekutievWhy USSD Is The Best Alternative Technology For Mobile Banking

USSD Technology To Rival OTT Services

by Nikita Tekutiev on July 1, 2015

Mobile operators have loyalty and trust of their subscribers because every month subscribers pay them money. Even if they are experiencing connection issues, people are still more or less loyal to their carriers. That’s why if people recognize that their carriers are offering innovative and convenient services, they are likely to use it. They know that it is a reliable source of services with a certain reputation.

If an average person has to choose an app from an unknown developer and MNO branded service, he/she will choose the former. This is especially true if you consider that mobile operators have tools and technical capability to provide services to end users in a more efficient and traditional way.

Growing use of messaging and OTT apps leads to a continuous decline in voice and SMS revenues of mobile operators. At the same time, revenue from data shows only modest growth, despite significant increase in mobile data traffic, driven by the growing number of 4G users. Mobile operators start to realize that growth in data revenues will not compensate for the drop in voice and SMS revenue. By continuous investment in 3G, and now, 4G networks, mobile operators only dig themselves deeper in hole.

As Amit Sanyal, AVP & Joint Head, at Mahindra Comviva states, “to retain this new generation of customers, operators must roll out services beyond traditional offerings and deliver an engaging customer experience. It is essential to differentiate their services with respect to customer focus, personalization and delivering tailored offers. Run of the mill plans and packages along with mass marketing are considered obsolete in today’s age. To drive revenues, companies need to understand their customers and establish long-term relationships with them, which incorporate their needs and expectations. And the only way to go about it is customer experience management (CXM) – so that the customer knows that there is a new offering or a service that suits the personal needs.”

Eyeline Communications has developed a range of products that are unified in one Global USSD platform, and allows mobile operators to deliver interactive services to their subscribers and earn additional revenue on advertising and marketing. The platform includes many functions, such as user identification and authorization, charging, logging and statistics, operation and maintenance, personalization and advertising, as well as complete set of tools for service development and rollout.

We have a solid experience by working with top mobile operators and banks, which use Global USSD platform for various needs. The platform can help MNOs to provide relevant services and advertising to their subscribers, and compensate on revenue that is now being eaten by OTT services.

Contact us here and stay tuned for a more detailed description of the platform in the next posts.

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Nikita TekutievUSSD Technology To Rival OTT Services

Eyeline Unibalance

by Nikita Tekutiev on June 17, 2015

One of our product that is a part of Global USSD platform is Unibalance. Unibalance is a system based on USSD technology, which allows operators to place targeted advertising together with the provision of subscriber balance information. The system allows subscribers to receive balance information in a simple and easy way by dialling a single USSD short code.

Unibalance provides the operator a marketing communication channel with subscribers, which allows promotion of operator’s services and products, as well as services and products of third parties. The system provides targeted advertising at a moment when a mobile phone user receives balance information, i.e. a moment when the subscriber is willing to accept advertising information and react to it.

A subscriber who wants to check the balance sends USSD-request (eg *100 #) and receives information with flash USSD message. Advertising is included at the bottom of the message.

Unibalance brings the following benefits to a MNO:

Additional revenue through targeted advertising. According to our statistics, the subscriber makes a USSD request of balance two times per day average, which provides a high frequency of ad display.

Possibility of free promotion of additional MNO services. With Unibalance operator can inform subscribers of availability of additional services. This is a great way for the operator to start earning money on its own services.

Effective management of advertising. Ads-n-Balance makes it possible to effectively control the display of advertising, using a target samples by various criteria. The system allows to reduce the number of direct mailings to subscriber base or eliminate them completely.

Provision of ads according to subscribers preferences. The system can provide advertising taking into account the preferences of the subscriber,  by using a target sample of subscribers. Also, the operator can use Blacklist function and create a list of subscribers to whom advertising won’t be delivered based on a certain criteria (for example, at the request of the subscriber).

Full statistics about advertising campaigns. The system makes it possible to obtain comprehensive statistics on shown banners.

Low cost of using USSD channel. Unibalance does not require the use of voice channels, thus being simpler and less expensive one compared to voice systems.

Ease of administration, expansion, and integration. To interact with external systems Unibalance uses standard protocols: SOAP, HTTP / HTTPS.

Our Unibalance product is being used by the largest operator in the Eastern Europe – Mobile TeleSystems (MTS). If you want to learn more contact us here and stay tuned for more information.

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Nikita TekutievEyeline Unibalance

Mobile Banking In Developed & Developing Countries Part 3

by Nikita Tekutiev on June 10, 2015

What is the technical difference between mobile banking in developed and developing countries? Mobile banking in developed world is not a separate mobile wallet. A mobile app is just a means to operate your banking account, not some kind of separate virtual account.

On the other hand, traditional banks in third world found that there were no money in low end market. Therefore, an independent mobile systems are more popular in regions like Africa. They are able to operate with less overhead (fewer branches, fewer employees, less paperwork), therefore they can afford to reach a widespread, rural market at a reasonable cost.

Regardless of the approach, USSD can be used in both scenarios as a front end of the mobile banking system. It works on any GSM mobile device, doesn’t require Internet connection or installation of any additional software. In developed countries even with high penetration of smartphones, mobile banking service on USSD is still relevant, as it allows to reach customers who still don’t have a smartphone. Even the US has a smartphone penetration at 56,4%. As you can see, using only smartphone based apps leaves a large base of customers untapped.

Implementation of USSD based mobile banking app doesn’t mean that a bank has to neglect smartphone apps. Rather it is a way for banks to be sure that they cover mobile banking needs of all their clients. On top of that, it gives certain benefits even for smartphone users, as they can access their account in situation when there is no data connection and you airtime balance is zero. USSD is also free in roaming, so it helps to avoid additional roaming charges.

From a user experience POV, accessing USSD banking service is even faster than launching and logging into a smartphone app. First time using the service, you need to dial a short code like *150#, and enter the last 8 numbers of your credit card. Next time you only need to dial the short code and the service is ready to use. For a bank USSD banking service is and additional money income as people are willing to pay a commission for it.

We implemented such service for the largest private bank in Russia – Alfa Bank. If you are interested in USSD technology for your bank, contact us here for more information. Stay tuned.

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Nikita TekutievMobile Banking In Developed & Developing Countries Part 3

Mobile Operators Starting To Earn More On Mobile Data

by Nikita Tekutiev on May 25, 2015

The era of OTT mobile services officially started, with data services proving to be the new cash cow for mobile operators. People give up on standard calls and go to the Internet instead. It doesn’t matter what application subscriber is using – WhatsApp, Viber, or Skype. At this point operator becomes what it is called a “dumb pipe” and doesn’t get direct monetization in a traditional sense.

Revenue from mobile data of the largest mobile operator in the Eastern Europe, MTS, will exceed revenue from voice services for the first time in history. In 2015 and 2016, MTS will focus on package deals, when for a fixed amount per month subscribers can make calls for a certain number of minutes, send a certain number of SMS, and transfer certain amount of data. Users whose devices support LTE-network consume about 1GB per month traffic. The rest of the subscribers who use the 2G and 3G, consume a half to two times less data.

The second largest operator in Russia, MegaFon, is not expecting that revenue from data will exceed revenue from voice services. As of the the third quarter of 2014, the proportion of data in the total revenue of MegaFon was 38%. “The share of voice calls falls, data grows.To avoid becoming an infrastructure such as water supplier, we need to develop, experiment with different business models.” said General Director of MegaFon Ivan Tavrin.

It is not the same for all operators around the world, data revenues for some of them will not make up for decline of voice calls. Water supplier reference can be true for operators in Latin America. According to DOTGO, a mobile messaging firm, “many budget-conscious consumers will opt to not use a data plan, or opt to use a data plan sparingly. Instead, many consumers will take the smartphone subsidy from their operator and remain “semi-connected” through WiFi hotspots to keep costs down.”

Although the uptake of mobile data plans is increasing, it will not be sufficient to offset the decline of these core services. In 2015, consumers will accept the compromise of being “semi-connected” through OTT services in WiFi hotspots if it means saving money. Operators will therefore face the familiar challenge of losing ground to OTT services that other operators have faced globally.

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Nikita TekutievMobile Operators Starting To Earn More On Mobile Data

Mobile Banking In Developed & Developing Countries Part 2

by Nikita Tekutiev on May 12, 2015

What is the best way to reach customers when it comes to mobile banking? What is the best technology to use? Let’s look at two completely different markets for a start: First World And Developing countries. In both these markets mobile banking is on the rise and one the main topic of discussion in IT departments. But there is one significant difference.

In developing countries mobile banking is a necessity. 2.5 billion people in the world don’t have a bank account, and this further complicates their already complicated life. They have to keep their money in cash and hide them at home or invest in tangible assets that depreciate over time. To transfer money to relatives or somewhere else, people need to travel or pass them with courier. At the same time banking infrastructure in poor countries is not developed,there are no branches and ATMs, so it is impossible to develop a standard banking. This is where mobile phones become useful.

As Bill Gates said in his annual letter, “One interesting feature of digital financial innovation is that some of it is happening in poor countries first. If we waited a few decades, banks in developed countries would invent digital banking tools, and they would trickle down eventually to developing countries. But because there is strong demand for banking among the poor, and because the poor can in fact be a profitable customer base, entrepreneurs in developing countries are doing exciting work — some of which will “trickle up” to developed countries over time.”

As a result of this demand and general poverty of the population, companies have to come up with systems that don’t rely on new technologies and are accessible to general population. Why invent something new when there are already existing working technologies? Those technologies turned out to be SMS and USSD. In developing countries they are used for mobile wallets, i.e. this is not a banking in a traditional sense, as user doesn’t have a bank account.

While IT departments in developed countries are looking for new fancy ways of mobile banking, the real technology that works already exist. This is a way for banks in developed countries to reach absolutely all clients. It is a necessity for a client to leave his/her mobile phone number when applying for any banking service. With USSD/SMS it means that every client becomes a potential user of mobile banking application. Why? Because USSD/SMS don’t depend on mobile platform, it can work on iOS, Android, and more importantly, any basic mobile device. Standard dumb phones still take half of the mobile market in most countries.

We’ll continue on this topic in next posts. Stay tuned.

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Nikita TekutievMobile Banking In Developed & Developing Countries Part 2