TRAI’s push to make mobile banking via USSD free faces stiff opposition from Airtel, Vodafone Idea


  • India’s telecom regulator wants to make banking services mobile via USSD free.
  • However, it faces opposition from two of India’s main telecommunications players, Airtel and Vodafone idea.
  • While Airtel wants to be compensated if the charges are reduced to zero, Vodafone Idea said the costs would be substantial.

Airtel and Vodafone Idea, India’s two major telecom players, do not want feature phone users to use mobile banking services for free via USSD.

Telecom operators are said to have revealed this in response to a proposal from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reduce USSD fees for zero mobile banking. Currently, it costs ₹0.50 per session, down from the initial fee of ₹1.50 per session.

USSD stands for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. Mobile banking via USSD can be accessed using the short code *99#.

Users can recover their mobile balance, mini-statement, generate one-time passwords for banking services and transfer funds through this service.

Announcing its proposal, TRAI said: “The Authority proposes to revise the framework for USSD-based mobile banking and payment services by prescribing ‘zero’ fees per session, as streamlining is a necessity to protect the interests of target user groups and promote digital financial inclusion.”

In response, Airtel said it should be adequately compensated by affected stakeholders – likely the government and banks – if the charges are reduced to zero, according to a report by
ET Telecom.

Vodafone Idea was quoted as saying that “costs per unit would be substantial” if the volumes of USSD Mobile Banking transactions are affected.

Business Insider India has reached out to Airtel and Vodafone Idea for further comment. We’ll update the story if and when we receive a response.

What is USSD and why is it important for Indian users?

USSD is a feature that allows users without a smartphone to access services such as peer-to-peer payments, checking bank account balances, and other banking services, without the need for a smartphone or services. Mobile Internet.

Essentially, access to banking services through USSD benefits feature phone users the most – there are more than 350 million feature phone users in India, according to an IDC report.

Apart from this, the Reserve Bank of India announced last week that it will soon expand the availability of the ubiquitous Unified payment interface (UPI) to also offer phones, enabling hundreds of millions of users to make quick payments without a smartphone.


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