Telcos phase out old USSD codes

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MTN USSD codeTelecommunication firms have begun to phase out old Unstructured Supplementary Service Data shortcodes for new harmonised ones as directed by the Nigerian Communications Commission.

With this move, famous USSD codes such as *556# are now outdated. Customers of MTN Nigeria told The PUNCH that old USSD prompts now redirect them to a message that reads, “Y’ello Our codes have changed.

While MTN seems to have phased out its old USSD shortcodes, other telcos are yet to do so. Checks on Airtel showed that old USSD codes are working simultaneously with the new ones.

In March, the NCC approved and released harmonised shortcodes for certain mobile operations in the country. The commission stated that this was aimed at achieving uniformity in common short codes across networks, allowing the code for checking airtime balance, for instance, to become the same across all mobile networks.

It gave the mobile network providers a deadline of May 17, 2023, to fully migrate to the harmonised codes. It explained that while the old and new harmonised shortcodes would run concurrently up until May 17, 2023, all networks are expected to have fully migrated to the new codes by its deadline.

Commenting on the codes, the commission said, “Consequently, under the new harmonised shortcodes regime, 13 common short codes have been approved by the Commission.

“They include the following codes: 300 to be used as the harmonised code for Call Centre/Help Desk on all mobile networks; 301 for voice Mail Deposit; 302 for Voice Mail Retrieval; 303 for Borrow Services; 305 for STOP Service; 310 for Check Balance, and 311 for Credit Recharge.

“Also, the common code for Data Plan across networks is now 312. In line with the new direction, 321 is for Share Services, while 323 is for Data Plan Balance. The code, 996, is now for Verification of Subscriber Identity Module Registration/NIN-SIM Linkage.

“The code, 2442, is retained for Do-Not-Disturb unsolicited messaging complaint management, while the common code, 3232, is also retained for porting services, otherwise called Mobile Number Portability.”

The NCC added that the initiative will make life much easier for telecom consumers since it will now become easier for consumers to memorise single codes for various services across all mobile networks they may be using.

Commenting on the harmonised shortcodes with The PUNCH, a telecommunications expert, Ajibola Olude, said, “The whole essence is just to have it unified. The short code for each service you want is now the same, there is no need to say because I am on MTN I must use this number, if I am using Airtel, I must use another number. The era of that has passed.”

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