Indian government owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), has enabled the payment of its mobile bills and purchase of mobile top-ups through mobile and Union Bank of India (UBI) ATMs. Union Bank of India account holders who are BSNL customers can make BSNL bill payments directly from their mobile after linking the accounts, and buy mobile top-up’s through their mobile. Additionally, customers can use their UBI Debit Card to make a payment of a BSNL bill directly through a UBI ATM, and purchase a top-up BSNL Pre-paid Card at any time through the ATM.

A small step, this – connecting a bank account with a mobile number, and allowing the payment of mobile bills and purchase of top-up’s. We wonder how long it will be before, firstly, many more banks tie up with BSNL to enable these payments directly. But why stop there? What we’d really like to see, though, is the extension of this service to all types of payment transctions – as a consumer I should be able to link my mobile number to my bank account, and use that to make payments to all merchants, not just BSNL.

Payments being made to mobile operators from bank accounts(UBI to BSNL) and credit cards (via MChek to Airtel) are just a start, and a terribly slow start at that. While Mobile Payments have been enabled a long time ago, the process of payment suggested by the RBI appears to be rather tedious. What will it take for merchant transactions to be scaled on the mobile? Perhaps Vodafone getting a pre-paid card license to launch MPesa in India, I guess.

On another note, this also indicates that ATM’s could well serve as kiosks for bill payments. Perhaps banks should look to enable more such bill payment services on ATMs.