IRCTC To Offer SMS & USSD Based Ticketing Service From July 2013


The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is launching SMS based and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) based ticket booking service starting July 1, 2013, reports Times of India. This will allow users to book tickets on low end phones.

To use the service, one needs to register their mobile number with IRCTC and with their bank for the payment, which is handled through its own mobile wallet service. IRCTC has apparently tied up with 20 banks for this service, as per a The Hindu Businessline report. The bank will then provide its users with MMID (Mobile Money Identifier) and OTP (one time password) for payment authorization.

Users can then send an SMS with the train number, destination, journey date, class and personal details (name, age and gender) to a designated number, following which they will receive a transaction ID and users can send another SMS to confirm the payment. Note that IRCTC hasn’t however disclosed the designated number to which users need to send the SMS, although the Business Line report suggests that users will be charged Rs 3 per SMS and they will also have to pay a payment gateway fee of Rs 5 for ticket amounts of up to Rs 5000 and Rs 10 for tickets amount more than Rs 5,000.

Besides SMS, users can also book tickets through USSD, by dialing the USSD number, selecting ‘book tickets’ option and providing requisite details like train number, destination, journey date, class and personal details. Users can then enter their mPIN for authorizing payment through mobile wallet. Once done, users will receive an SMS from IRCTC with their ticket details. Note that USSD based ticket booking service will not work on CDMA networks as it does not support USSD based dialing.

NPCI-Telcos Roadblock? This payment procedure seems quite similar to NPCI’s Interbank Mobile Payment Service, which IRCTC had integrated last year. However, we are not quite sure if IRCTC will be using the same payment service to offer this service. If it indeed is, we are a but curious to know if NPCI solved its USSD tussle with telcos.

In May 2013, it was indicated that National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI)‘s USSD based Interbank Mobile Payment Service (IMPS) had hit a roadblock with telcos over revenue sharing model. Telcos had reportedly disapproved NCPI’s offer of 25 paise per transaction and were instead looking to opt for a B2B-based billing model by directly negotiating with the banks. However, there was no further updates on this matter yet.

Previous IRCTC developments

Earlier this month, Value Added Service (VAS) provider, Spice Digital had launched a B2B travel and tourism solution called Spice Safar for travel agents, as a part of Spice’s retail initiatives. Spice launched this platform with an Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) partnership where Safar act as its principal agent to carry out IRCTC’s e-ticket booking services in the country.

In May 2013, IRCTC had upgraded its website which can support bookings of more than 4.15 lakh e-tickets daily. Prior to this, IRCTC claims to have handled 3.67 lakhs e-tickets per day. The website can currently handle 2000 tickets per minute and claims that it future it plans to upgrade the website to handle 7200 tickets per minute.


  • Sundar Lakshmanan

    Yeah right, that solves all booking problems!

    On a serious note, they should first do it only for unreserved ticketing and platform tickets (which they piloted earlier). As far as reserved tickets are concerned, it may be useful for non-peak time bookings.

    • Arjuna Rao Chavala

      Will double the price of platform ticket if you include the booking expense. Unreserved won’t be attractive for anybody. I think USSD may win in the long run if only the it infrastructure improves first.

      • Sundar Lakshmanan

        Good point about the platform ticket cost, Arjun. If telecom providers agree to make an exception for their share considering the volumes, it can be minimised. I still feel that unreserved ticketing will find a lot of takers (judging by the long queues there).

  • kanhaiya kumar jha

    that’s good idea

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