Digital payments would be more accessible if USSD communications were free. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed that all mobile consumers in India should be able to receive free Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) messages. It is common to see USSD messages on feature phones that don’t have an internet connection being utilized by numerous operators and financial institutions. As part of the idea, USSD communications would cost no more than 5 pence. Regulators highlighted lower call and SMS rates as a rationale to propose eliminating mobile service fees.
On November 24, TRAI issued a statement that was picked up by TelecomTalk, saying that the proposal to make USSD communications free for all customers was inspired by proposals made by the Reserve Bank of India’s high-level Committee on Deepening of Digital Payments (CDDP).
It is also possible for feature phone customers without Internet access to check their balance and activate services using USSD messages.
It was requested by the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to do so by the Department of Telecom (DoT), and TRAI concluded that rationalization of USSD costs is essential to safeguard the interests of USSD users and promote digital financial inclusion. Tariffs for using the USSD service were earlier decreased from Rs. 1.50 to 50 paise per session by the Telecommunication Tariff (61st Amendment) Order, 2016. “The Authority recommends to alter the framework for USSD-based mobile banking and payment services by prescribing a ‘Nil’ fee per USSD session for mobile banking and payment service while maintaining the other elements of USSD same,” TRAI stated. Stakeholders have until December 8 to submit written comments to TRAI on the draught Amendment Order, which has been published on the regulatory authority’s website.