Telkomsel launches USSD-based messaging service CWEETA

The Indonesian carrier's customers can exchange unlimited texts via its service running on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data over the GSM network, doing away with the need for an Internet connection required for OTT apps.

Indonesia's largest mobile carrier Telkomsel has introduced a local messaging service called CWEETA, which runs on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) technology. This enables customers to exchange unlimited messages for a flat fee without the need for an Internet connection.

Telkomsel's CWEETA messaging soluttion is not interoperable and will compete with SMS.

"Telkomsel's CWEETA service uses USSD technology so CWEETA users won't need an Internet connection to take advantage of it. As long as customers are connected to the Telkomsel GSM network, CWEETA is accessible anywhere, anytime," said Marina Kacaribu, head of digital lifestyle group at Telkomsel, according to a report on Tuesday by Asean Startup citing news site Chip Online.

USSD is typically used by customers to check their credits when they key strings of numbers such as "*888#". Operators like Orange have used USSD to offer cheap mobile access to services such as Facebook, in markets such as Africa.

Telkomsel tweaked this technology to enable a messaging service to run over this, for both one to one and group messaging, noted the report. No special requirements on the customer's side is required for CWEETA which means older mobile phones can be used.

To use the service, the telco is charging a fee of 2,000 rupiah (US$0.20) for seven days or 5,000 rupiah (US$0.50) for 30 days, according to its Web site. According to Asean Startup, the service is aimed at the youth market, between ages 13-18, who live in areas where data coverage has yet to be deployed and smartphone penetration is low.

Despite CWEETA's advantage of not requiring a data package or coverage, it is not yet interoperable across telcos and is up against conventional short message service (SMS) technology.