In what is a significant change that will benefit Bharti Airtel’s M-Wallet rollout in particular, the Reserve Bank of India has increased the transaction limit from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 50,000, for “mobile-based semi-closed prepaid instruments issued by non-banks” on par with other semi-closed payment instruments. With this change, the mobile based prepaid payment instruments are being brought on par with other prepaid services, like Itz Cash, Done Card, Beam, Oxigen etc. Bharti Airtel is the only entity to launch a mobile-specific prepaid instrument: called ‘Airtel Money’, a pilot service has been launched in Gurgaon.

Two conditions, however, remain:

– These wallets cannot be purchased or reloaded against airtime/talktime. However, they can be used to buy recharges
– These wallets can only be used to allow purchase of goods and services, not person to person transfer of value.

A semi closed prepaid wallet allows loading of money into a payment instrument, but cannot be used to withdraw money. Airtel M Commerce Services Ltd is among 12 companies to be given a semi-closed prepaid wallet license; the license of Kaizen Automation, which had piloted the Go Mumbai smart card service, was revoked earlier last month.

We wonder if there are any other telecom operators, whose request to offer prepaid wallets, is awaiting authorization.

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In addition, Mobile Banking norms have been changed: M-Banking transactions of up to Rs 5000 no longer need end to end encryption. The previous limit was Rs 1000. Banks, however, may put in to place security measures and velocity limits based on their own risk perception.

Last we checked, Mobile Banking transactions in India have increased to 707496, accounting for Rs 61.6 crore in February 2011. The State Bank of India dominates banking transactions, accounting for 529,318 transactions (74.81% of total) and Rs. 32.63 crore transacted (52.96% of total). It is followed by ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Citibank. You may check the individual performance of 34 different Indian banks at MediaNama charts (using the dropdown menu), over a period beginning May 2009, to February 2011.