The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued (pdf) new regulations to prescribe a ceiling tariff on USSD based mobile banking services and establish a framework to enable bank agents interface with access service providers to provide mobile banking services through SMS, USSD and IVR channels.

As per the new regulations, TRAI has set a ceiling tariff of Rs 1.50 for each outgoing USSD-based mobile banking session and asked telecom service providers to collect the charges from their subscribers for providing this service, as they do with SMS-based and app-based mobile banking services. This tariff will be applicable from January 1, 2014.

TRAI had earlier proposed this ceiling tariff in a consultation paper on USSD mobile banking service in September 2013. It had also then asked suggestions on whether these service providers should collect charges from the subscriber (B2C pricing model) or from banks (B2B pricing model).

Besides this, the regulator has also increased the maximum number of stages for completing a mobile banking transaction to five stages of message transmission, in case of SMS and five stages of options in case of USSD and IVR. Previously, the limit was set at two stages, however service provider associations had pointed out that two stages might not be possible for all transactions and it will be come increasingly difficult as more facilities are added in the future. This was also corroborated by banks and their agents due to which TRAI increased the maximum of stages.

Bank Agent Framework: In addition the ceiling tariff, TRAI has also mandated that every access provider acting as a bearer, to help authorized agents of the banks using SMS (Text Messages), USSD and IVR to provide banking services to the bank’s customers.

These access providers should also deliver the message generated by agents within a prescribed time frame of less than or equal to 10 seconds for SMS, IVR, WAP and STK (SIM tool kit) and less than or equal to two seconds for USSD and ensure that a report confirming the delivery of the message is sent to the customer or agent or the bank. Alternatively, an USSD communication can be sent to the customer confirming the completion of the transaction.

TRAI has also added a clause to include the bank agents into the mobile banking regulations released earlier this year, indicating that these guidelines will be applicable on telcos for all agent driven mobile banking transactions as well.


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