Trai writes to FM P. Chidambaram for pushing mobile banking services

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 4 2014, 22:44pm hrs
Mobile bankingTrai wants banks to move forward on mobile banking so as to promote financial inclusion across India.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today said it has written to the Finance Ministry seeking that banks be asked to move forward on mobile banking so as to promote financial inclusion across the country.

A system is already in place for the service and banks need to "wake up and move" on it, Trai Chairman Rahul Khullar said during an Assocham event on financial inclusion.

"I intend, irrespective of what the central bank does, to ensure the regulation we have put in place will be enforced and I have already written to the Finance Minister explaining that the system is already in place, it is now for the Ministry of Finance to tell the bankers wake up and move," he said.

It is a "national shame" that 41 per cent of the people in India, and 46 per cent of the rural households, don't have bank accounts, he added.

The telecom regulator had in November issued guidelines and tariffs on unstructured supplementary service data (USSD)-based mobile banking services.

The guidelines, which came into force from January 1, have prescribed the ceiling tariff for an outgoing USSD-based mobile banking service at Rs 1.50 per session.

USSD technology is used by telecom operators to send alerts to their users. It can be used for pre-paid call-back services, location-based content services and menu-based information services.

Khullar said the guidelines mandate the telecom operators to connect with the National Payment Corporation of India, which in turn is connected to all the banks.

"I have already issued a regulation which mandates them (telcos) as of January 1 to provide the pipe connection to the NPCI and sometime later this month I will call them and find out exactly where they are," Khullar said.

NPCI is the nodal agency under the Reserve Bank that manages the national payment switch.

The Reserve Bank had also expressed its disappointment over the lower-than-expected spread of mobile banking in the country saying that the awareness levels of this tool has been wanting.

"Though mobile banking channel has the potential to be one of the key tools for achieving financial inclusion, the growth and acceptance of mobile banking as a channel of accessing banking service has been below expectation," the central bank had said in its half-yearly financial stability report released late last year.

RBI allows only a bank-led model for mobile banking, with only those banks that operate in the country being permitted to offer this service.

As many as 78 banks, including a few regional rural banks, urban cooperative banks, offer mobile banking services in the country.

The Trai Chairman said that citizens in far-flung areas across the country should have the facility to be able to open an account remotely, check on their balance, deposit, withdraw and transfer money through phones without having to go to a nearby town or city to complete the transaction.

It is these core, rudimentary services which need to be provided to achieve financial inclusion, Khullar said.

"Data and security will be the two big issues/spin-offs in financial inclusion as we go ahead, he said adding it is really concerning that India is at least 10 years behind the rest of the world in terms of data privacy and its protection.

Financial inclusion apart, Khullar said Trai is working on a report for improving telecom services in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. "In six months we will come out with a report on how to improve telecom connectivity in Andaman and Nicobar region."