Looks like Movida, the mobile payments joint venture backed by Visa and UK based mobile payments solutions provider, Monitise, has just made public its first deployment, after its initial launch in May 2010. The company has signed an agreement with HDFC Bank, to introduce a mobile payments service. The new service will allow HDFC Bank customers to pay bills, top up prepaid airtime and buy tickets from their mobile phone and will be available across all mobile networks using any Visa or non-Visa branded payment account. We like the fact that the service will be operator or card issuer agnostic, facilitating a wider rollout.

It can be used by any mobile subscriber, anywhere and accessed through even feature phones since it uses menu-based USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) mobile technology which is available on all GSM network phones, and doesn’t require Internet connected mobile apps or SMS.  The service is initially being offered to a select number of customers who will be able to link their HDFC Bank cards to their mobile phone numbers. The company plans to roll out the service across the country, later in the year.

USSD messages are realtime messages that create a real-time connection that remains open and allows for a two way exchange of a sequence of data. A USSD message session can be initiated by users by dialing a designated code. It is 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. Note that CDMA phones do not support USSD.

The company claims that the payment system integrates various security measures to maintain account integrity, including the use of a unique PIN number set up on the phone to access the account information. Also, only the user’s bank-registered phone can be connected to the service, which means that the customer will have to register the number with the bank, before enrolling.

Other tie-ups: Although HDFC Bank, through a tie-up with ngPay offers mobile banking via a Java app in addition to offering an SMS based interface, this will be the first USSD based implementation. However the bank supports mobile payments for its Visa debit card customers on mChek, another mobile payments company, which has been offering USSD based mobile payments since a long time on Airtel and Tata Tele’s networks. The service comes pre-installed on Airtel and Tata Docomo mobile SIM cards, offering merchant and utility bill payments. HDFC Bank had also tied-up with Vodafone for its M-Paisa mobile payments service under a Banking Correspondent model.

MediaNama readers would recall that UK based Monitise, had partnered global payments company Visa (which also owns a minority stake in Monitise), in 2010, to launch a 50:50 JV, Movida, a platform for financial institutions and mobile network operators in India, to offer services such as banking, bill payments, mass transit ticketing, mobile top-up and others to consumers. This looks like the first major implementation, although, Standard Chartered Bank had also partnered Monitise to develop its mobile apps.