Government Pushes Mobile Banking Platform for Basic Phones

BENGALURU: As the nation tries hard to come to grips with the demonetization move, telecom companies have been instructed to provide full support to an inexpensive technology that would allow mobile banking with basic mobile phones without any internet connectivity, reports The Economic Times.

After letting it remain in a cold box for years, the government has suddenly woken up and is trying to push the rollout of  unstructured supplementary service data (USSD), which could help in simple banking transactions, like balance enquiry and small fund transfers.

On Saturday, Energy Minister, Piyush Goel met the representatives from the banking and telecom sectors and ensured that the government would provide all necessary help to make this plan a reality and support every attempt for the proliferation of the USSD channel, while the telecom companies will have to make this a top priority.

The channel provides a simple text messaging feature that would help the customers to reach out to their banks without any hassle. The numbers also support this step, as out of the 900 million handsets in India, 600-650 million handsets are basic feature phones, and this highlights the significance of this step.

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is working hard on the USSD channel to make it more user friendly, so that the commands are easier and simpler to execute. VISA, one of the leaders in the payments sector is keen on joining hands for this initiative, but the NPCI is yet to accept this request.

Out of the 5 lakh transactions per day, only 10-15 thousand successful transactions take place everyday and the process is too long and tedious. The lack of interest on part of the telecom companies is the main reason behind this sluggish growth of the USSD platform. The government will have to push these companies hard, as they don’t find this opportunity lucrative enough. As a technology the USSD would have caught up long time back, had the telecom companies agreed to cooperate.

The updated mobile banking platform is expected to be ready by January end and everyone is hoping that the telecom companies will provide their full support to make this initiative a success.