TRAI wants free USSD messages for all users to promote digital payments


India’s Telecommunications Regulator (TRAI) has published a proposal to make Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) messages free for all cellular customers in the country. USSD messages are used by many operators and banking services, often on feature phones that do not have access to the Internet. The proposal aims to reduce the cost of USSD messages from a maximum of 50 Paise to zero. The regulatory authority cited low telephone and SMS prices as the reason for the abolition of charges for mobile phone customers.

In a Nov. 24 statement discovered by TelecomTalk, TRAI said that the proposal to make USSD messages free for all users was based on recommendations from a High Level Digital Payments Deepening Committee (CDDP) headed by the Reserve Bank of India is used to promote digital payments in the country.

USSD messages are also used by telecommunications operators to allow feature phone users to check their balance and activate services without access to the Internet.

TRAI said it analyzed the issue at the request of the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to the Department of Telecom (DoT), and the regulator believes that a rationalization of USSD fees is needed to serve the interests of the USSD- Protect users and promote digital financial inclusion. The Telecommunication Tariff (61st Amendment) Order, 2016 previously had the USSD-based tariff cap of Rs. 1.50 to the existing 50 Paise per session.

“The agency proposes to revise the framework for USSD-based mobile banking and payment services by requiring a ‘zero’ fee per USSD session for mobile banking and payment services, while the remaining USSD elements remain unchanged”, said TRAI. The draft amending regulation has been published on TRAI’s website and the regulator has asked stakeholders to submit written comments by December 8, according to TRAI.

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As a writer on Technology with Gadgets 360, David Delima is interested in open source technology, cybersecurity, consumer privacy, and loves reading and writing about how the Internet works. David can be contacted by email at and on Twitter at @DxDavey. More

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