It’s about time we got a short code directory from these mobile operators

I’d probably get a good show of hands if I asked how many folks are as irritated as I am by trying to find service from the numerous network USSD, SMS, and biller codes that exist. Most will agree that there is a need for some form of order and reference point.

It is very difficult to determine which short code to use to access a VAS service. Other than the common recharge codes that are printed on the scratch cards, the rest is purely guesswork. I have to inquire with someone on how to get the balance or transfers menu or refer to some old newspaper for an ad.

Shedding some light on the matter of short codes, an official from the telecoms regulator, POTRAZ, explained that VAS companies usually come through the operator on whose platform they will provide the service.

POTRAZ then issues out a short code to the operator. The short code is universal for one service across the network operators. However, a pattern cannot be determined simply from a given code based on the application tendered because one code can give various other services from sub-menus under it. For example *151# may be registered under Telecel for VAS services. Under

For example *151# may be registered under Telecel for VAS services. Under Telecel, however, *151*1# maybe be for one partner and *151*2# for another function. My question to the service providers is, how are we supposed to figure out what service is on what code? While on the matter, are there short codes for emergencies services across networks that are mandatory or it’s a choice issue?

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Short code Directory

It’s just a fantasy but can’t there be a requirement at POTRAZ that networks can use a single short code for directory services such as *000# or some such code.

This can give a list of services that users may be interested in and how to acquire them from the relevant network. Mandatory in this list would be EMS, Police, Child services, Disaster, Corruption line or similar services in addition to regular VAS.

In addition to USSD short codes, a directory listing of SMS short codes would also be useful for subscribers and operators. This could be achieved by dedicating short code 00000 globally, or some such number which then gives inquirers feedback on the VAS services they wish to find.

This will not only bring convenience but may also stimulate user excitement if they are at some ad hoc moment interested in obtaining a service they once saw in a newspaper sometime in the past and they can quickly search and find it. This also resolves the need to send users unsolicited messages which many would regard as spam. If I ever need a service, I know where to get it.

Another vexing area is the numerous utility companies and merchants that can be paid for via mobile wallets. It would make so much more sense from a marketing perspective to establish a system of listing the available billers and merchant codes for ease of use. One doesn’t have to struggle with trying to figure out what MultiChoice’s code is when their subscription has expired and yet they can pay immediately to reconnect.

If the operators will not do it I suppose this is another opportunity for a startup to take it up.

7 Comments

  1. wengai says:

    You are spot on Victor, I was also about to say these operators could also standardise the whole short code system, where for example *151# is for mobile cash on any of the networks

  2. Allaz says:

    It exists. Maybe not so up to date since the advent of whatsapp bundles but Econet did do that last year – they had a glossy A3 poster placed inside the newspaper, with all the ussd codes, value added services and customer service numbers that were available at the time. Even sponsored competition codes like Big Brother voting codes, it was quite comprehensive. And then there is the Zimcodes android app.

  3. wengai says:

    Perhaps a single short code that gives u the whole directory.

  4. Mzenge says:

    This was once addressed by an android app called zimcodes once mentioned here but lately the developers haven’t updated their app.

  5. Sundeep Mehta says:

    In a hypercompetitive and rapidly changing marketplace, electronic recharge solutions like PreTUPS™ allows operators to sense, shape and control their prepaid business. It hands the full control over to customers by allowing self-recharge options such as automated and scheduled top-ups. It enables you to leap beyond traditional airtime transactions to offer value added service such as P2P airtime transfer, bill payments, SOS credit, top-me-up, social media recharge, private recharge, gift recharge, carrier billing, VAS retailing and much more.

  6. Edmund says:

    Maybe we need an explanation from the service providers on why we have so many short codes, why can we not have a universal short code and then have several options under the menu? I don’t see, for example, why Econet has two different USSD menus for the purchase of data bundles (*140# and *143#), why can’t these two at least be merged?

  7. Derek Johnson says:

    In the United States we have the U.S. Short Code Directory, you can check it out here: http://usshortcodedirectory.com

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