Telecommunications regulator TRAI on Wednesday proposed to remove charges on USSD messages for mobile banking and payment services to promote digital transactions.
Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) messages are displayed on the screen of mobile phones and are not stored like SMS. This technology is widely used to display the balance deduction in mobile phones where a message appears on the device screen after an outgoing call or SMS.
Currently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has capped the price of a USSD session at 50 paise, with each session being able to be completed in eight steps. The suggestion to remove the fees was made by a high-level committee on Deepening Digital Payments formed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to encourage the digitization of payments and improve financial inclusion.
The recommendations made by the committee are supported by the Department of Financial Services (DFS). Trai, in a statement, said following a request from the DFS to the Ministry of Telecommunications in this regard, the Authority has analyzed the matter from various aspects and is of the opinion that in order to protect the interests of users of USSD and to promote digital finance inclusion, the rationalization of USSD fees is necessary.
“Accordingly, the Authority proposes to revise the framework for USSD-based mobile banking and payment services by prescribing a ‘zero’ fee per USSD session for mobile banking and payment services, while retaining the remaining elements of the USSD unchanged, ”Trai said. The regulator said the current rate per USSD session for mobile banking services offered by telecommunications service providers (TSPs) is several times higher than the average rate for one minute of outgoing voice call or outgoing SMS.
“In view of the lower fees for other services, the rationalization of USSD fees is necessary to increase the number of USSD transactions,” Trai said. The regulator invited stakeholders to give their opinion on the draft proposal by December 8.