State owned telecom operator, BSNL, has partnered with State Bank of India (SBI) to launch its mobile baking services via the ubiquitous USSD (unstructured supplementary service data) mobile platform, reports Telecomtalk. It is not clear as to which company is providing the technology support for the service.

All BSNL users, postpay and prepay, who have an SBI account can use mobile banking which supports all major banking transactions including Money Transfer, Mobile to Mobile Fund Transfer, Balance Inquiry, Mobile Top-Up/Recharge, Mini Statement, Checkbook issuance, Prepaid Mobile Recharge and Postpaid Bill payment, and will cost Rs. 15 per month for unlimited number of transactions. The service will be work over USSD, which is also used by mobile operators to carry out mobile balance and validity requests for prepaid mobile subscribers, as well as for service activation and deactivation requests.

We feel that SBI should make the service truly ubiquitous by introducing it on other mobile networks, across India, since it’s one of the biggest nationalised banks. USSD is definitely more convenient as it does not require mobile data connectivity, however, it does not work on CDMA based phones. So we feel that a mix of USSD, SMS and mobile apps should be offered by banks as media for mobile banking.

How It Works: 

– To use the service, users need to sign-up for Mobile Banking, with SBI.To register for the service with the bank, users need to send an SMS <MBSREG> to 9223440000 to get a User ID and MPIN . The system will reply with a user-id & default password(MPIN). It should also be noted that the customer has to submit an application for mobile banking in the SBI branch.

– Following the registration, existing BSNL users can dial *595# on their mobile handset to view the menu and then enter special character * to subscribe to the service or 1 to unsubscribe to the service.

– The system will then follow with a confirmation request on which users need to enter the suitable number option.  Subscribers will be able to view account balance, get mini statements, do Fund Transfer, change MPIN or recharge their mobile account. Apart from that, they will also receive confirmation messages regarding successful transactions over USSD.

Previously, SBI offered State Bank FreedoM, a Mobile Banking Service over a native mobile application that required EDGE/GPRS connection on users’ mobile device.

Other USSD based mobile payments services

Earlier this year, Bharti Airtel had a similar tie up with Axis Bank to launch Airtel Money Super Account powered by Axis Bank’, which will essentially offer no-frills accounts with the Bank on Airtel’s mobile platform. The service, which is an open wallet system, was made available to Airtel customers as a USSD service. The National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) had also proposed the use of mobile phones for non-financial banking transactions such as account balance enquiry, to reduce the burden on ATMs, and in turn resulting in cost savings for banks which pay Rs 5 to Rs 8 per ATM query, following which the Department of Telecom had notified *99# as the USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) code for the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) for operating mobile banking services through the channel.