Unified Payments Interface (UPI) is one of the most used and popular modes of payment through smartphones. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has now announced to bring the mode of payment to feature phones. Also Read - RBI sets up FinTech Department to promote innovation, create policies in fintech sector
The RBI in its “Statement on Developmental and Regulatory Practices”, announced a proposal to bring UPI payments on feature phones. The central bank is yet to release details about the new service. Also Read - UPI is down: Google Pay, PhonePe, Paytm not working [Update: It's back]
Good news for feature phone users
Announcing the decision to push UPI-based payments for feature phones, RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said that it is important to bring feature phone users into mainstream digital payments. This becomes even more crucial, as out of 118 crore mobile users in India, nearly 44 crore people still use feature phones. As per Statista, in July 2021, around 74 crore users have a smartphone with them in the country. Also Read - Reliance Jio partners with NPCI to roll out UPI Autopay option for prepaid subscribers
During the first cohort of RBI Regulatory Sandbox, several investors showcased their solutions for feature phone payments under the theme of ‘Retail Payments’. Das said that “these products, coupled with other complimentary solutions, will facilitate UPI-based digital payment solutions on feature phones to promote wider digitisation. It is proposed to launch a UPI-based payment product for feature phone users. Further details will be announced shortly.”
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To recall, in 2012, the National Payments Corporation of India launched a USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Services Data)-based mobile banking service called *99#. The service was initially introduced for BSNL and MTNL users but later expanded to other networks as well.
In 2016, the Indian government introduced USSD 2.0 alongside BHIM, incorporating all the UPI options. Unfortunately, the service didn’t quite help boost digital transactions.
As per reports, in 2017-18, USSD 2.0 transactions accounted for 4.3 per cent of total UPI volumes and 1.6 per cent of the total transaction value. Last year was worse as in 2020, the share of USSD 2.0 in volume and value transactions dropped to 0.005 and 0.004 per cent, respectively.